A freshman senator single-handedly stopped Democrats from pushing through a bill expanding the District’s authority last week. Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, thought it wasn’t right to further empower the city unless it committed to a respect for life, the right to work and the Second Amendment.
“We can’t tell states what to do, but D.C. is an unusual entity that was set up with the jurisdiction being under Congress,” Dr. Paul explained in an interview with The Washington Times. “So we have every constitutional reason to do it.”
He is a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which was poised to adopt a bill granting Washington autonomy to make its own spending decisions without waiting for congressional approval. The eye surgeon threw a wrench into what appeared to be an easy vote for the Democratic majority by submitting amendments on what he calls “three important issues to conservatives around the country.”
Dr. Paul’s proposals would hardly raise an eyebrow in a red state, but they freaked out the liberals running Washington. He would codify the prohibition on taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for abortions in the District, eliminating the need for Congress to do this every two years through the appropriations process. He also wanted to ensure residents aren’t forced to join labor unions as a prerequisite for obtaining a job. His other two amendments would grant concealed-weapon carry rights in the capital city and ease the process of buying a firearm.
To avoid forcing committee members to make an unpopular vote, Chairman Joe Lieberman of Connecticut pulled the bill, which is unlikely to return. The District’s nonvoting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, said in a statement that the Republican amendments reflected the “phony notion that the District is a colonial-like fiefdom of the Congress, whose local laws it can overturn at will,” which “harkens back to the worst days of American history.”
The freshman Republican thought it would be worthwhile to put politicians on the record. “Votes are important to take because they separate the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad, and this is a way for having votes that don’t occur up here very often,” Dr. Paul said. While he conceded the pro-life amendment wasn’t likely to pass the committee, “it’s hard to say to the pro-life community that we’re all for it but no one wants to have a vote.”
Last year, D.C. politicians asked House Government Affairs and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, to pull the House version of the budget authority bill in order to block similar abortion language from passing with it.
As a Tea Partyer, Dr. Paul is showing it’s possible to stick by conservative principles after being sent to Washington. “I got a little more attention and flak than anticipated,” he explained of the surprise move. “It shows if you are willing to be active up here, take a stand and be vocal, you can have some influence on what happens.”
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at TheWashington Times.