Republican Congress takes on Washington, D.C., laws to local outrage

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By Ian Simpson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON A vote by U.S. House Republicans on
Monday to strike down a Washington, D.C., law that would allow
doctor-assisted suicide has put the conservative Congress on a
collision course with the liberal city that hosts it, local
officials said.

In the District of Columbia, where just 4 percent of the
population voted for President Donald Trump, city leaders worry
that Republicans will overturn progressive laws on issues like
gun control and abortion, to the outrage of locals who have long
complained of curtailed rights.

One of the most liberal U.S. cities, Washington is unique in
that the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the option to block
its legislative moves. Its 680,000 residents pay federal income
taxes but have no voting representative in Congress.

“This is yet another attempt by this House committee to
trample the autonomy of the D.C. Government and undermine our
local control,” Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who signed the
assisted suicide law in December, said in a statement after the

Monday’s vote by the House Oversight Committee, headed by
Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, took the first step in
overturning the measure letting doctors help terminally ill
patients end their lives.

The full House and Senate would now have to vote and Trump
would have to sign a repeal by Friday, the 30-day deadline for
Congress to act.

“Congressman Jason Chaffetz has sent a signal to D.C.
residents that Congress has zero respect or concern for their
will or the will of their elected officials,” Bowser said.

Bowser called the vote a power grab by legislators who
espouse states’ right to make their own laws but differ when the
heavily Democratic city is involved.

The vote was the first in a series of Republican-sponsored
measures taking on city laws. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of
Florida last month introduced legislation that would bar city
lawmakers from passing gun control laws and repeal local firearm
registration requirements.

Rubio said the measure, aimed at Washington, was needed to
protect residents’ constitutional right to bear arms.

The House also has approved a bill that would permanently
ban the District from using local tax funds for abortions for
poor women.


Congress granted the 68-square-mile (117-square-km) enclave
a mayor and council in the 1970s and has voided only a handful
of District laws since then.

But Chaffetz has pledged to intensify scrutiny, saying at
Monday’s hearing that the assisted suicide law could create “a
marketplace for death.”

Washington’s city council has passed laws in recent years on
issues dear to liberal Democrats nationally. These include a
$15-an-hour minimum wage, legalized recreational marijuana and
one of the country’s most generous family leave laws.

“The District is a progressive jurisdiction in the midst of
a conservative Congress,” Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the
District’s congressional representative, said in a phone

Washington leaders have relied on the Senate, which has long
had less appetite than the House to interfere with District
laws. The city also had an ally in Democratic President Barack

That protection is gone, Norton said.

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