Greater Greater Washington


GOP continuing resolution cuts WMATA, DC funds

House Republicans have proposed a "continuing resolution" to fund the federal government with deep cuts, including no federal payment for Metro repairs and cuts to many federally-funded DC services including the courts.

Photo by GabeB on Flickr.

The list of cuts removes the entirety of the $150 million annual capital contribution to WMATA, which just began last year. The federal government makes no other contribution for Metro beyond general formula transportation dollars that go to states and localities.

In addition, it eliminates $25.5 million from the DC courts, which are federally funded, $15.4 million from schools, $10 million from the water and sewer authority, $15 from a forensics lab, $7 million from veterans housing, and more. Perhaps recognizing these cuts could lead to some chaos, they're budgeting a $12.5 million increase for the Capitol Police.

The redevelopment of St. Elizabeth's was spared, though I wonder what the $5.1 billion cut in BRAC 2005 would mean. Could the ill-advised moves of any defense agencies in our region be canceled? Or would it simply mean that they would move with even poorer infrastructure and planning than is already happening?

This proposal is unlikely to become law as is, since Senate Democrats are likely to have very different ideas. At least some cuts will probably survive, however.

If many of these go through, or even just the WMATA cut, it's worth having a serious conversation about small civil disobedience steps to illustrate how much Congress needs things like our transportation network, including Metro.

DC Wire commenter windrider2 wrote,

When the District and the Metro have to radically cut services because of these budget cuts, I suggest they cut any and all related services to the Capitol Building and White House first. Cut court and forensic lab spending? Don't prosecute criminals who commit non-violent crimes on or near federal building grounds. Cut Water & Sewer Authority? Busted pipes in the Capitol don't get fixed and new pipes don't get run to replace aging infrastructure. Cut veterans housing? Don't prosecute homeless vets when they move into federal buildings to live.

In short, ensure that members of Congress feel the effects of the budget cuts personally with losses of services and perks they are accustomed to getting from the District and the Metro, which should cut all services to the Capitol, White House and other federal buildings.

DC doesn't control who gets prosecuted, since the US Attorney handles almost all prosecutions, and the Capitol fixes its own pipes.

But I only half-jokingly suggested a $5 surcharge to exit Capitol South in the morning or enter it in the afternoon. Or, could DC stop assisting with Capitol traffic management and providing police for all of those special motorcades and VIP events? What else?

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 


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Well damn. I say cut them off. If the Capitol Police are getting more money, then they should do the motorcades. If they don't want to fund Metro, then I say impose a surcharge on any predominantly federal stop: Federal Triangle, Capitol South, Pentagon, etc.

DC needs an ad campaign targeted to tourists, and we need a lobbyist with good Republican connections. Too often, DC is seen as a playground for the Feds and is treated with the same "respect". If people could see who we are as a community, I think we could push back a bit.

by OctaviusIII on Feb 12, 2011 10:05 am • linkreport

windrider2 forgets the important fact that Congress has complete control over the affairs of DC. If they wanted to, they could abolish the entire DC government. DC Water cutting service to the Capitol? Cut DC Water. Police not doing their job? Cut them. It wouldn't make the Republicans look good, of course, but it'd get the job done.

by Tim on Feb 12, 2011 10:08 am • linkreport

Don't forget, if the federal government cuts their $150 million in funding, each of the 3 jurisdictions will also pull their $50 million match to those dollars. It will be a $300 million hit to metro's capital plan.

by Jason on Feb 12, 2011 10:16 am • linkreport

BRAC is 5 billion below the FY10 enacted, because that 5 billion has already been spent in new buildings so they don't need it anymore The key is the 200m less than their FY11 request, which is mostly infrastructure improvements for the BRAC bases once they are fully running. So basically it means that the new offices will go forth, but will not have the transportation improvements in place by the 9/11/11 operational deadline.

by RJ on Feb 12, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

having leaders feel the pain is def important.

i think having a serious conversation about raising taxes needs to happen, too -- if all we ever talk about is what services to cut and by how much, that doesn't leave us very many options. even if something is deemed not currently politically feasible, the conversations should happen. there has to be another side of the debate presented -- right now, it's only about how to punish the non-rich, and how much to punish them. gas taxes and other sales taxes, corporate taxes and new taxes on big businesses, decongestion pricing, raising Metro train fares -- lots of ways to deal with a financial assault on DC from the revenue side.

other than that, a general strike is what made Egypt finally collapse. rich people don't like general strikes. tactic 117. shut down Metro for a day and watch what happens -- maybe a sudden illness catches most WMATA employees off-guard? gotta round up folks with common causes -- the targets of cuts -- uni students, veterans, etc. -- plan a march on Capitol Building.

def a bad scene right now. i think a lot of people feel hopeless, and we've had little organizing going on here in DC, overall. Egyptian labor organizers were working for ten years before this opportunity popped up, and they were ready. the same can happen in DC and elsewhere. that always seems to be the takeaway from so many of these upheavals -- education with an eye towards the future and seizing opportunities if and when they arise.

by Peter Smith on Feb 12, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

While I agree with the sentiment, I don't think punishing the working-level federal workers who take metro to work will cause the lawmakers any hardship at all. In fact, I'd bet they celebrate that "those lazy, overpaid, feds" are struggling more just like the "real Americans." I think it's time to stop targeting federal employees in retaliation for the messes Congress makes.

by Raika on Feb 12, 2011 11:32 am • linkreport

Couple easy ideas:

* If WMATA gets actual cuts: Eliminate all bus lines that go by federal buildings. Create a few new ones that pass by federal buildings.

* Security stations at all Capitol Hill parking lots. Security stations are manned 24/7 and require full pat-downs and full car searches. This of course to keep our dear Federal overlords safe from the angry public. However, due to financial restrictions, those security stations can only be manned by 2 officers at a time. Expect delays.

* VDOT can help by reversing the HOV times on I-395 and I-66. Outbound in the morning, inbound in the afternoon. This is an experiment related to the HOT lanes. [Remember, things do not have to make sense in politics]

* DDOT can designate all roads around federal buildings to be bike lanes. This will reduce spending on road maintenance.

* ANCs can protest all the shuttles from metro stations to federal buildings. If they can reroute GUTS buses, they can reroute federal shuttles.

* Permanent bags searches on all metro stations near federal facilities. Full body airport-style pat-downs for everyone with a federal badge or uniform. MPD has had numerous tips of terrorists pretending to be federal employees. Stations open at 8 am and close between 4-6pm to reduce employee cost.

* Swipe all the homeless to Capitol Hill. Put soup kitchens near the entrances of House and Senate buildings.

* The second the Fed move to take over DC politics, the mayor, all his appointees and the city council should instantaneously take a leave of absence (not resign). Call their bluff.

Do not negotiate with hostage takers.

Problem: Democrats don't have the spine to do so.

by Jasper on Feb 12, 2011 11:57 am • linkreport

I would be perfectly fine with the district being left to fend for itself without federal cash if
a) every other state was forced to do so
b) the federal government allowed DC to manage its own affairs, especially collecting income tax on out of state commuters and charging federal buildings user fees for city services.

Good luck making the case for this trade, especially without voting representation.

by Jordan on Feb 12, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport


I'd be interested in knowing the percentage of federal funding to the District that this cut represents.

Also, people need to check out DC Vote ( Not only do they track and chronicle the many ways we are 2nd Class citizens, they are working on a civil disobedience plan to protest the numerous attacks on DC sovereignty and enfranchisement.

Lastly, I agree with Jordan-I'd gladly abandon the Federal teat in exchange for full legislative representation, additional territorial sovereignty and control over our own DC laws and institutions.

by Brian Pate on Feb 12, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

What's funny is that the GOP is cutting programs under the title "Federal Payment to the District of Columbia", even though none of the items mentioned are a payment to the District of Columbia, at least not the municipal government. All of these cuts are for programs and agencies that Congress directly manages or controls (such as the DC Courts, National Guard, Veterans Affairs) or for programs that Congress itself wanted to establish ("Member projects"?). However, the GOP wrapped all this under a heading that suggests that these special funds are a magical gift bestowed upon the corrupt D.C. government by the good, honest, taxpaying citizens of Middle America.

Cutting funding for the forensics lab is a perfect example of this nonsense. Currently, D.C. police and federal law enforcement agencies in Washington send all forensics requests to the FBI, DEA, or the ATF. But about 5 years ago, each federal agency requested that D.C. get its own lab so that they can cut down their own laboratory backlogs (interestingly, D.C.-related lab requests occupy 30% of the workload at the FBI's lab at Quantico). Seeing that the move would improve public safety in the District, the Council agreed to pay to operate the new lab and pony up 2/3 of its construction costs. But now, it is likely the lab will not be built without federal funds and D.C. will continue to outsource all its forensics work. Here the GOP had a golden opportunity to shift even more of its workload from the federal government to local taxpayers and they couldn't even get that right.

by Adam L on Feb 12, 2011 2:23 pm • linkreport


Voting representation for D.C. wouldn't change anything. It's one more vote out of 435.

On the other hand, since the GOP loves tax cuts so much and decided to extend the $230 transit benefit, metro fare hikes in response to this policy would somewhat be offset by higher federal outlays because people would take a higher transit benefit (except for those who would have already reached $230 cap).

(Although over long-term, it could lead to lower outlays if metro service declines.)

And I vehemently oppose government workers engaging in Washington Monument tactics. If metro intentionally were to make the system worse as retaliation for cuts, those people should be fired immediately.

by Milton on Feb 12, 2011 2:40 pm • linkreport

As a minor point of reference, Congress can do just about whatever the hell it wants to WMATA or DC. Home rule is nice, but Congress still has the final say in just about any DC-related affair.

Also, the roads around the capitol are maintained by the Architect of the Capitol, not DDOT.

A general strike probably won't hurt congress at all. Now that Biden's VP, all of the members themselves drive in, and they've conveniently had their entire workforce declared as "essential" personnel, which means that (among other things), they can override the OPM snow closure schedule at their own discretion.

Short of barricading the 14th Street bridge, I'm not sure there's very much you could do to fase them without also being declared a terrorist.

by andrew on Feb 12, 2011 2:46 pm • linkreport

You do realize that many of the suggestions you are making won't touch Congress in the least, but are designed to make the lives of regular executive branch federal employees miserable?

Guess what the Republicans in Congress don't actually care about us. They think we are all incompetent idiots anyway. Especially the ones pushing hardest for these cuts.

Tourists would be better be to try to make miserable. They voted for these people. Most federal employees in DC sure didn't.

by Kate on Feb 12, 2011 2:56 pm • linkreport

Democracy, democracy, democracy...that's all you people care about and think it's going to solve the problems. Michelle Rhee was right when she said that democracy may not be the appropriate political system for fixing D.C.'s problems.

Given the performance of D.C.'s electorate and what they've voted for in the past, anything that gives D.C. voters more control may not be a good thing.

If it was just you smart people who read this GGW blog living in D.C. that voted, we wouldn't have this problem. This may sound elitist, but it's a fact.

The federal government already had to come in and fix a major problem that D.C. voters (as a group) caused in the first place.

by Milton on Feb 12, 2011 3:01 pm • linkreport

(interestingly, D.C.-related lab requests occupy 30% of the workload at the FBI's lab at Quantico)

What?! It doesn't all run by Abby @ NCIS?

by Jasper on Feb 12, 2011 3:21 pm • linkreport

Re prosecutions: Even though the U.S. Attorney's Office is responsible for filing the charges, the D.C. courts still have the authority to manage those cases. So, the judges could agree to issue absurdly long continuances in any cases involving non-violent crimes near federal buildings -- thus effectively suspending these prosecutions until the courts get their funding back.

by Cap Hill on Feb 12, 2011 3:30 pm • linkreport


No, some of it goes through Dr. Brennan.

by Adam L on Feb 12, 2011 4:44 pm • linkreport

What interesting suggestions from a few individuals here. Let’s just go ahead and burn down our own neighborhoods and hope Congress gets the message. Wouldn’t that be just what these Republicans from the sticks wanted in the first place? A Democratic leaning city center making themselves out to look as stupid and “radical” as the hicks who elected these assholes in Congress. Let’s run metro further into the ground at the expense, while raising fares, of everybody. As if Congress will ever get that message. I say that we build a series of huge ugly walls, Baghdad style, around the capitol building in the name of the safety of members of Congress and their staff. We have already begun this process with the new visitor center. We just need to take it up a notch. Flip-flop rather. When they try to enter the city, beyond the grounds of the Capitol building, they get searched, harassed, etc. If the Queen must ask permission from the House of Commons before entering the city limits of London from Westminster, at least according to tradition, then let’s implement that strategy. Take the pissing contest to the steps of the Capitol itself. Make those in Congress suffer humiliations and indignities, not the rest of us!!!

by jps on Feb 12, 2011 5:12 pm • linkreport

The commenter from DC Wire has it correct, but doesn't go far enough.

1. Cut services with budget cuts, like water and sewer immediately from not only the Capitol, but all Federal Buildings including the White House. Present a bill for usual commercial service fees paid in advance to restart. Also, any embassies getting freebies under FedGov get the same. Let Congress and the Exec explain it to the ambassadors in an international incident.

2. Police services cut off for non-DC residents in areas of joint jurisdiction immediately. Tourist gets mugged/in a fender bender? 911 or DC police have a sheet for the appropriate Federal law enforcement to contact.

3. Same with emergency services. Good luck getting a fire put out, or Ganny's heart attack to the hospital. Let the Fed building or the tourist call the White House or their Congressman for help.

Will the Fed federalize things in a panic? Probably, and then they can go back to their constituents and explain how they are now paying 5 times what they cut to "DC" to run things. They already are stomping on our rights...we should suck it up out of the threat we will lose a figurehead local govt?

by John on Feb 12, 2011 5:20 pm • linkreport

@ John: 2. Police services cut off for non-DC residents in areas of joint jurisdiction immediately. Tourist gets mugged/in a fender bender? 911 or DC police have a sheet for the appropriate Federal law enforcement to contact.

I like this one. When tourists get in trouble, check how their House Rep and Senators voted. If it's (in majority) for cutting funding to DC, then no help, sorry.

@ Kate: You do realize that many of the suggestions you are making won't touch Congress in the least, but are designed to make the lives of regular executive branch federal employees miserable?

Guess what the Republicans in Congress don't actually care about us. They think we are all incompetent idiots anyway. Especially the ones pushing hardest for these cuts.

I do not think there's an effective way of harassing members of Congress. They are the pigs that are more specials than us common animals. You can hurt the operation of the Federal Government. And trust me, not only Federal Employees will suffer. Everyone will. But then again, that's the point of the House Republicans. In the end, the traffic mess will hurt them as well. Especially when all the witnesses that they want to hear can't get to Congress.

by Jasper on Feb 12, 2011 6:14 pm • linkreport

Gosh this is sad. WMATA should communicate to the passengers/customers the implications of this kind of decision through the local media (e.g. The Express & The Examiner) and WMATA's website. Maybe using a catchy title that appeals to the masses like, Congress Endangers Metro Rail... or using a what-if scenario. Showing what would be the level of service if Congress slashes funding. It is unlikely that they will do it, but they should communicate any potential risks to the system and its implications. This is definitely one. Hopefully this will not be a long-term strategy to make a push (a greater one) for more roadway capacity in the region (Maybe there is money for others? Just speculating).

by W on Feb 12, 2011 7:12 pm • linkreport

@ w: WMATA should communicate to the passengers/customers the implications of this kind of decision through the local media

Isn't there something stupid in WMATA's charter that it can not publicly advocate for itself?

Can someone refresh my brain here?

by Jasper on Feb 12, 2011 7:32 pm • linkreport

Nice to see David stop sucking up to conservatives.

by Rich on Feb 12, 2011 8:10 pm • linkreport

As a minor point of reference, Congress can do just about whatever the hell it wants to WMATA or DC.
Is there anyone in this conversation who doesn't know that? We're talking about what Congress *should* do, not what it *can*. When people object to things Congress is doing or planning it's not usually because they think those things are illegal or unconstitutional but because they think they're bad ideas.

by Keith Ivey on Feb 12, 2011 11:02 pm • linkreport

Milton, I hardly think DC's electorate is any stupider than the electorates that brought us the House members who are pushing these cuts.

by Keith Ivey on Feb 12, 2011 11:04 pm • linkreport

A Democratic leaning city center making themselves out to look as stupid and “radical” as the hicks who elected these assholes in Congress.

Or a little like the crowds in Cairo. It's hard to say which way it would go, and in general I am not one for public demonstrations, but if the people of DC actually shut down the city in a non-violent way for a few weeks, the nation might take notice of its concerns. That notice might not be benign, however.

by Dave J on Feb 13, 2011 9:08 am • linkreport

What annoys me is reading the anger directed at Washington DC, and our federal employees by people who live in other parts of the country, and realizing that many of the Republican's budget cuts to DC and the federal budget are punitive, not rational decisions.

If, in fact, the Republicans actually succeed in cutting the federal budget by $100 billion, or shut down the government for any length of time, these continuing resolution cuts will be the least of our worries! What we need to be planning for is a new Hooverville on the National Mall.

by Trakker on Feb 13, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

So much for tea party urbanism....

by charlie on Feb 13, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport


"many of the Republican's budget cuts to DC and the federal budget are punitive, not rational decisions."


by Adam L on Feb 13, 2011 1:46 pm • linkreport

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