At a hearing on January 9, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, denied Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) the courtesy of testifying on his bill, H.R. 7, which would, among other things, permanently prohibit the District of Columbia from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women, and define the D.C. government as part of the federal government for the purposes of abortion. (At present, the prohibition against the District spending its own locally-raised tax revenues on abortions for poor women is prohibited by a rider to the District's annual appropriations bill.)
It is a standard courtesy for a member whose district is targeted by a bill to be allowed to testify on it. All Rep. Franks would do was to point out that the single witness the Democrats were allowed at the hearing could be Norton (the Republicans were allowed three witnesses), despite the fact that the bill also had nationwide implications and the Democrats needed a witness to discuss those provisions. The normal practice would be to allow the affected member to testify over and above the witness allocation. But Franks, in addition to being opposed to women's reproductive freedom and to the District's right to govern its own affairs, is opposed to basic courtesy toward a colleague.
I attended the Congresswoman's news conference on Thursday morning protesting the action by Franks. Speaking at the news conference, in addition to Congresswoman Norton, were Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), ranking member of the subcommittee, and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. The District of Columbia government is not part of the federal government. That is a fact that no law can change. The law, however, can make a mockery of itself, and can cause injustice. Fortunately, H.R. 7 has no chance of passing in the U.S. Senate. This bill is but one example of the mischief that we can expect from Congress if Republicans take control of the Senate in this year's midterm elections.
The Congresswoman's statement, and the testimony she would have given against this egregious infringement on the rights of the District and of its women, can be read here.