Federal Judge Indicates D.C. Council Overstepped Authority From Congress Regarding Budget

By Tom Sherwood
|  Wednesday, May 14, 2014  |  Updated 9:29 PM EDT
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The D.C. Council wants to spend money without approval from Congress. News4's Tom Sherwood explains why a a federal judge was skeptical about the idea.

Tom Sherwood

The D.C. Council wants to spend money without approval from Congress. News4's Tom Sherwood explains why a a federal judge was skeptical about the idea.

In court Wednesday, a federal judge seemed skeptical of D.C.'s ambitious effort to spend money without getting approval from Congress in an unusual case that has the D.C. Council fighting Mayor Vincent Gray.

Since the 1970s, the District has sent its entire budget – now about $11 billion -- to Congress every year for approval, but the Council recently backed a law and referendum exempting about $6 billion in local money from that congressional review.

Gray called the maneuver illegal and refuses to enforce it, so Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is suing Gray.

Despite seeming sympathetic, District Judge Emmet Sullivan strongly indicated Wednesday that the Council overstepped its authority from Congress.

Sullivan said he'd rule soon to allow either side to make quick appeals. The Council is due to start acting under its new law in just two weeks, and government programs could be affected later this year.

D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan, representing the mayor in court, said the Council was trying to take the law in its own hands over Congress.

“The Congress is the entity that deprived the district of budget autonomy, and the only place to go for it to be awarded is the Congress,” he said.

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