November 21, 1989
The Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington has been on record for over 40 years in support of self-determination for the citizens of the District of Columbia in local affairs, and representation of District citizens in the national government equal to all other American citizens. During the 1970's advances were made in local home-rule, giving limited elected self-government to the District.
The present limited home-rule authority reserves to the Congress the right to disapprove legislation passed by the elected Council before it takes effect and the right to pass on all District appropriations. The amendments to the 1989 District of Columbia Appropriations Act, adopted by Congress, concerning purely local human rights, insurance and residency legislation and local abortion funding, mark a clear reversal of the progress towards granting District residents the full rights of American citizenship.
The Jewish Community Council does not support the reservation by the Congress of veto power over purely local legislation in the first place. However, it is intolerable that Congress, which did not exercise its veto power when the relevant legislation was passed, should not mandate that the members of the District of Columbia Council modify this enacted legislation in a manner dictated by Congress upon the threat of closing the entire city government if the Council does not comply.
In addition to dictating changes in legislation dealing with human rights, insurance and residency, the Congress has restricted the District from spending non-Federal funds which have been raised through local taxes for funding abortions. Such a restriction is not placed by Congress on any other local jurisdiction in the United States. There is no justification for placing restrictions on the District Government in expenditure of its own tax funds which do not apply to other localities. To impose on the citizens of the district the burden of local taxation without the right to determine its expenditure is contrary to our long national tradition of no taxation without representation. Congressional imposition of restrictions which do not apply to their own constituents or the unrepresented citizens of the District lacks the most elemental fairness.
Not only is the Congressional use of its power over the District to impose its will on local policy improper, the Jewish Community Council deeply regrets that the Congress has chosen to use the opportunity to restrict the rights of poor women to secure abortions and to weaken human rights protection. The Jewish Community Council strongly supports equal access to medical care, regardless of wealth, and the strongest protection for human rights.
The Jewish Community Council, a beneficiary of the UJA Federation, is a representative body of 220 affiliated Jewish organizations and congregations in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia.