Treat the Illness not the Symptoms

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) seems to have gotten his way in the House appropriations process by getting an amendment passed that would prevent the District from using our own funds to implement our recently passed marijuana decriminalization law. District citizens and leaders, including myself, are rightfully upset about this congressional intrusion into local matters but this case is not in isolation, this case is merely a symptom of our overall illness which is our colonial status. We can’t lose focus that there were other riders in that appropriations bill unique to the District and this is not the first year this absurdity has occurred.

As long as we’re a colony members of Congress will restrict our ability to spend our money on reproductive services for women. As long as we’re a colony our budget can be held hostage by congressional ideologues. As long as we’re a colony we’ll be denied full and equal representation in national debates and votes on tax policy, drug policy, issues of war and peace, and all other issues before Congress. Our focus has got to be on changing our unequal status first and foremost.

We should be angry about Rep. Harris’ actions but we also should be mad about all the other injustices imposed on us because of our status and Congress’ inability to control itself. Moving forward the District should:

  1. Fight these riders and speak to our friends on the Senate Appropriations Committee and ask them to strip the riders (yes, the Senate Appropriations Chair is Senator Barbara Mikulski, a long-time statehood supporter).
  2. Ask the President to consider vetoing the bill, though his record of standing up for the District is rather weak.
  3. Ignore all of the riders outright if they become law in a similar fashion advocated last year during the government shutdown by Ken Archer.

We can’t however lose sight that fighting these individual riders is nothing more than fighting the symptoms of an illness. Yes, symptoms are bad, inconvenient, and troublesome but we have to fight the larger illness which is our unequal status.

It is only when we’re a state that this meddling will stop. Only by being a state state will we have permanent full and equal congressional representation, irrevocable budget freedom, and only by being a state can we ensure protections from having members of Congress wave Article I Section 8 in our face justifying their intrusions into our local affairs.

We need all of our citizens to get active, we need to be engaged on the Hill not just complaining about getting screwed by a meddlesome Congress but building support for ending this unjust system by achieving statehood (complete our Summer Assignment). When we reach out to the Senate and ask them to remove these riders we also need to ask the members of the Appropriations Committee who are not on the statehood bill, S. 132, to sign on to it. If we have to ask President Obama to veto the Appropriations bill we should also ask him to go further publicly than he ever has by also endorsing statehood (he has endorsed budget autonomy already). And while we’re taking on this fight we need to keep reminding the American public what our end game is and how they can help us get there.

The District, as usual, got screwed in the Appropriations process but all is not lost. Let’s stop fighting the symptoms and redouble our efforts to fight the illness and work, struggle, and strive for statehood like we have never done before.

Josh Burch


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