UYGUR: We all know that the GOP loves big government when it comes to our private lives. They want to get between you and your womb. Case in point, during the budget battle last week, Republicans pushed to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood. They didn‘t succeed but they did manage to force conservative views on Washington, D.C. As part of the deal that was cut with Democrats, the District of Columbia is banned from using its own funds to provide abortions to low-income women. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray was among 41 people arrested while protesting the deal, which effectively takes away autonomy from the city.
In the end, this is just the latest example of how Republicans have treated Washington, D.C. Whenever they want to do a social experiment based on their conservative ideology, they force it upon D.C. because the federal government has ultimate control over the local government. And then they can score political points with their base for imposing their values on the local population, which by the way, ironically is among the most liberal in the country. Now the thing is I thought we lived in a democracy, but apparently, if you live in the District of Columbia, that just doesn‘t apply to you. Now, on the other hand, Democrats could have fought for the resident of the city but shockingly enough, they didn‘t. So once again, Washington, D.C. has gotten thrown under the bus in negotiations with the GOP.
Joining me now is D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to talk about that. Mayor Gray, thank you for joining us, we appreciate it.
MAYOR VINCENT GRAY, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it, you have done a good job of characterizing the dilemma we find ourselves in.
UYGUR: All right. So let‘s start with that dilemma. First, let‘s talk about the Republicans and how they continually play with D.C. Isn‘t there a problem there? I thought they have, the, you know, slogan don‘t tread on me but they like treading all over you.
GRAY: Well, absolutely, we are being tread upon and it happens repeatedly. We see these riders on our budget. We have seen two of them in this instance. First of all, the banning of our ability to use our own money to support abortions in the District of Columbia and then the foisting upon us of a voucher program that basically says here is money, you are going to go give money to private schools to educate your children. This really eliminates any possibility in those two areas that the people of this city will be able to make the decisions that are made by the people of every other state and every other city without having to be subjected to this.
UYGUR: So, for a lot of people that might not know why, why can the federal government do this to you, guys? Why can‘t you control your own government?
GRAY: Well, it‘s because we are—there is a federal presence, we are the federal city. But what it doesn‘t recognize and they fail to acknowledge is that these dollars are raised by the people of the District of Columbia. We have our own tax system. We have property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes. And those taxes are the responsibility of—generated by the 600,000 people who live in the city. Yet, the Congress intervenes whenever it feels like it and imposes its will on the District of Columbia. If they were federal funds, perhaps they would have a legitimate case but these are our dollars and we ought to make those decisions for ourselves. That‘s why 41 people were arrested yesterday, because people have got to the point where they are saying enough is enough. We want budget autonomy for ourselves and the city. We want to have self-determination, like everybody else.
UYGUR: I think this is the height of irony, because the Tea Parties were all about taxation without representation, the original Tea Parties.
GRAY: That‘s right. That‘s exactly correct.
UYGUR: Now the current batch of Tea Party say, well, I don‘t care what the D.C. people pay in taxes, we‘re just going to take over and give them a conservative ideology, even though your city is among the most liberal in the country.
GRAY: Absolutely. And not only that, the Tea Party members are people who also believe that states and local jurisdictions ought to have the right to make their own decisions, not have federal interference, congressional interference like we see here in our city.
UYGUR: All right. One final question for you, Mayor Vincent Gray. It is easy to say, OK, Republicans are doing the wrong thing because they are. All right. But on the other hand, it seems like whenever the Democrats are in a bind, I will give you D.C., you do whatever you like there. How do you feel about that?
GRAY: Well, I feel like we got thrown under the bus and it‘s clear that it isn‘t just Republicans who are supporting this deal. This deal has been supported by people on both sides of the aisle. I‘m concerned, too, about what the White House‘s role is in all of this. So, the question is for us, you know, where are our supporters? And that‘s why people are simply tired of it, that‘s why people are engaging in civil disobedience and I think this is not going to go away quickly because people are sick and tired of raising our money and then having someone else tell us how to live our lives.
UYGUR: So, do you think President Obama threw you under that bus?
GRAY: Well, you know, there have been quotes that said, you know, we will give up D.C. We have contacted the White House. I want to hear directly from the president himself what his position was. The president has said he supports voting rights for the city, that he supports, you know, the charter and home rule. Now is the time to demonstrate that, it is easy to have the conversation but these are the instances where we need to see it.
UYGUR: All right. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.
GRAY: Thank you.