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Government shutdown a "functional equivalent of bombing innocent civilians," D.C. delegate says

U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) speaks during a hearing about voting rights in the District of Columbia before the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee September 14, 2006 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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As Congress continues its last-minute wrangling over a budget bill, the House mid-afternoon Thursday passed legislation to keep the federal government functioning for at least another week -- and to prohibit the use of taxpayer funding of abortion services in the District of Columbia.

Washington's Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is infuriated.

"District residents are being treated as colonists of the Congress of the United States," Norton said on WTTG-TV today before the bill passed. "We are absolutely outraged. This is the functional equivalent of bombing innocent civilians."

Washington residents have long been at odds with Congress over the city's autonomy and representation. Norton does not get to vote on congressional legislation even though D.C. residents pay federal taxes. And while the District has its own mayor and city council, Congress has final say over its laws.

"We've sustained attack after attack as the Republicans invade our right to govern ourselves," Norton said. "But the ultimate attack on any American is to shut them down when you're having a fight over your own issues. Our issues are not the federal deficit."

The policy provision prohibiting government-funded abortions amounts to Republicans saying that District residents "don't count as American citizens," she continued.

"It's time that the District of Columbia told the Congress to go straight to hell," she said.

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Both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress say they want to pass a budget and avoid a government shutdown, but they are not confident an agreement to keep the government funded another six months can be reached. The House passed today's measure to give leaders more time to negotiate.

Republicans argue it would be unreasonable for Democrats to oppose the bill and let the government shut down over an abortion rider. Democrats have argued it's unreasonable for Republicans to insist on including policy riders on hot-button issues on a critical budget bill. President Obama has threatened to veto the House's one-week spending bill, though it would never get past the Senate anyway.

"If these Republicans insist that if they don't get the whole pie, they'll take the whole country down with them, then we have got to make them pay the price," Norton said.

If the government does shut down, no city would be more greatly impacted than the District. Because the city is partially funded by the federal government, some services like trash collection and street cleaning would be suspended. Libraries, the Department of Motor Vehicles offices and other local agencies would close. The Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo, which draw in tourists to the city, would be closed.

"We're listening to the American people, who want us to keep the government open while cutting spending to help the private-sector create jobs," Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the Hill today with respect to Norton's remarks. "It's difficult to see how this rhetoric helps."

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