Senate Majority Leader Makes “Cordial” Call to D.C. Mayor

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Mayor Vincent Gray Thursday after their clash outside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.

Gray's office described the call as cordial and didn’t say whether any kind of agreement was reached between the two, News4’s Tom Sherwood reported.

Wednesday morning Gray appeared with D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) at a rally outside the Capitol. Gray called on city residents to join him in speaking out against the federal government shutdown.

Then the mayor walked over to a Senate press conference just steps away and stood next to Reid (D-Nev.). Afterward, he tried to demand a Senate vote allowing D.C. to spend its own money.

"I'm on your side," Reid snapped. "Don't screw it up, OK. I'm on your side."

Last week, the House passed a temporary measure to fund D.C. government at current levels through Dec. 15. Democrats have said they don't want to pass piecemeal legislation and are pushing for a full continuing resolution to reopen the federal government.

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The District can only spend money that has been approved by Congress, even if the money was raised from local taxes and fees. The District has money in a reserve fund that had previously been appropriated, but now, the District is starting to delay payments as it tries to stretch those reserves.

"Many people have asked why the District is treated this way when it comes to spending our own money," Gray said Thursday evening. "I have never gotten anything approaching a reasonable answer to that question. And that’s why, yesterday, we gathered on Capitol Hill to demand quick action – because we are facing very dire consequences if Congress and the President do not act very soon to free us to spend our own local tax dollars in the midst of this stalemate. These are consequences that no other city or state has to face."

Gray noted the city's inability to pay Medicaid providers, Metro and public charter schools. D.C. also distributes some grants from Homeland Security to neighboring jurisdictions in the region.

Gray argued against defying the Anti-Deficiency Act by spending funds without congressional approval because of the threat of criminal prosecution to many and undermining "our moral authority as we make the case to Congress that we deserve to be permanently freed from being forced to ask permission to spend our own money."

"The District is not a federal agency, and the House passed a bill to exempt us from the shutdown on a bipartisan vote," Gray said. "So, allowing us to spend our own money is not a partisan issue. In fact, the budget proposed by the president for this fiscal year already contains budget autonomy for the District!

"That’s why I believe it would not weaken or damage the Senate leadership’s strategy of refusing piecemeal funding – because the District spending its own money is obviously a completely different matter than funding only parts of the federal government," he said.

Gray has requested a one-on-one meeting with Reid, but no such meeting has been announced.

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