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By Kathryn Watson
Americans who live outside of the nation’s capital should understand the District of Columbia is “sacred ground,” according to a Virginia congressman who represents a district that is among the wealthiest in the country thanks largely to its heavy concentration of highly paid federal workers.
Rep. Gerry Connolly told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (HOGR) Wednesday that Congress may need to “educate” people on why federal departments and agencies should be centralized on the “sacred ground” of D.C.
Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, made the comments as the committee debated a House resolution encouraging federal agencies to relocate away from D.C. in an effort to get them outside the Washington region’s political, cultural and economic bubble.
Connolly was indignant when Iowa Republican Rep. Rod Blum said his constituents sometimes wonder why he has to spend so much time in D.C.
“This is astonishing, that we’re going to play a game with the capital of the United States to make points back home because some constituents wonder why you fly to Washington, the nation’s capital?” said Connolly. “Most constituents I know understand why come here. It’s the capital. Maybe we should take the show on the road and educate the folks who are puzzled by that.”
Connolly claimed the Constitution and Federalist Papers support concentrating the federal government in D.C., and said historic events like former President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation make the District “sacred ground.” (RELATED: Chaffetz Wants To Relocate Federal Agencies Away From Washington, D.C.)
Other Democrats — particularly D.C.’s non-voting Democratic Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton — expressed disbelief over the proposal. Norton said the resolution “borders on the frivolous and laughable,” and a “direct assault” on her city and other parts of the country, claiming 85 percent of federal employees work outside D.C.
“This resolution is unwarranted and gratuitous and punitive and does not rise to the level of your chairmanship,” Norton told HOGR Chairman Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who introduced the resolution.
Chaffetz said federal workers in D.C. receive a 24-percent higher salary than their counterparts elsewhere, and 11 of the 20 richest U.S. counties — including the three richest counties — are in the D.C. metropolitan area.
“Because the government is spending literally trillions of dollars, there is a massive economic benefit to the city,’ Chaffetz said. “I think the rest of the country is looking at that economic benefit.”
The committee approved amendments from Blum that the committee change the resolution language to say agencies “may” relocate instead of “should” relocate, and require agencies to conduct a cost-benefit analysis before moving.
But the committee postponed a recorded vote on the resolution, with more committee Democrats than Republicans present.