Except, of course, when it comes to the District of Columbia, which the GOP-controlled House seems to view as its own little political petri dish. As part of its pending agreement to cut $38 billion from the federal budget, negotiators decided to cave in to the GOP’s demand to bar the District from using its own money to subsidize abortions for poor women. [Vote now: Who won in the 2011 budget compromise?]
A lot of people don’t like abortion, think it should be illegal, and don’t think government should pay for it. That’s a simple equation: if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. If you think it should be illegal, take it up with the courts, or push for a constitutional amendment banning it. Barring government money from being spent on a legal women’s health service—however controversial—is not defensible. We all have to pay for activities we don’t want, through our taxes or health insurance premiums. Some taxpayers would prefer that their contributions to the federal treasury not be used to pay for wars; some who pay health insurance premiums don’t want the pool of money to be used to pay for someone’s Viagra. But group funds don’t allow for individual micro-management.
The attack on the District of Columbia adds even more insult to the unforgivable injury Washingtonians already endure as the nation’s only legally disenfranchised voters. It’s bad enough that U.S. citizens in Washington—people who pay local and federal taxes, volunteer, serve in wars and on jury duty—don’t have a full voting representative in the House and have no U.S. senators. It’s the height of arrogance for members of the U.S. Congress from other parts of the country to presume to tell the District how to spend tax dollars it collected from its own citizens. Aside from the abortion restrictions, the pending budget agreement also reinstates and expands a private school voucher program for the District. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons about the budget and the deficit.]
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who was arrested at the Capitol this week in protest over the meddling, sounded just like a genuine political conservative as he described his objections: "I’m tired of being a pawn in a political game. All we want is to be able to spend our own money."
How unfortunate that congressional Republicans, who demanded the control over the District—and Democrats, who caved into their bullying—can’t see their way to apply true conservative principles when it comes to the city where they work. Other jurisdictions have imposed a "commuter tax" on people who live in one state and work in another. Members of Congress pay taxes in their home districts and states, but not here. If they want a say in how District funds are used, maybe it’s time they started to pay up.