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D.C. Braces for Pope Francis Frenzy (Updated)

Officials likened the pope's visit to a presidential inauguration. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:57 p.m. |  Federal and local District of Columbia officials are bracing for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to visit D.C. during the first leg of Pope Francis' visit to the U.S.  

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, security officials likened the event to a presidential inauguration, and transportation officials said there will be a number of road closures in effect. Congressional staffers and visitors will face a series of closures when the pontiff heads to the Capitol on Sept. 24 to address a joint meeting of Congress. District Department of Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo said Independence Avenue will be closed that morning, from Second Street Southwest to Third Street Southeast. Constitution Avenue will also be closed from Third Street Northeast to Second Street Southwest.  

Capitol Hill Grappling With D.C. Crime Spike

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Capitol Hill’s police advisory council usually convenes to discuss crime and policing issues, a handful of residents show up. On Sept. 1, it was standing room only.  

Capitol Hill residents and others living in the Metropolitan Police Department’s 1st District gathered at the police station in Southwest D.C. to voice concerns about the recent spike in violent crime rocking the nation’s capital. In the front row sat 13 year-old Taije Chambliss, who walked into the station with help from a walker. Chambliss was recovering from being shot in a drive-by shooting on Aug. 30, just a few blocks from the police station. “It’s getting old,” one clearly frustrated resident told 1st District Commander Jeff Brown. “It’s getting increasingly more dangerous.”  

It's Time for the Circulator — on the National Mall

Officials launch a new D.C. Circulator route Friday. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

As the sun beat down on the National Mall late Friday morning, District of Columbia officials cut a ribbon in front of a bus parked by the Lincoln Memorial, launching the sixth DC Circulator bus route.  

DC Circulator has operated bus routes around the District for the past 10 years, providing $1 rides to residents and visitors. The new route along the National Mall, which originates at Union Station, begins Sunday with 15 stops at the various monuments and museums, with a final stop at the West Front of the Capitol. "The Mall is one of my priorities," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. "This Circulator means that maybe we'll get rid of some of those gas-guzzling tour buses that are ruining the view and ruining our pollution."  

Bowser, Council Score D.C. Budget Autonomy Victory

Bowser's motion to dismiss the budget autonomy case appeal was granted Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council scored a victory Wednesday in the ongoing court case surrounding a law granting D.C. more control over its local budget.  

On the same day the D.C. Council debated the District's budget, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted Bowser's motion to dismiss the case's appeal, which centered around a dispute between the D.C. Council and Bowser's predecessor, Vincent Gray. Gray believed that the Budget Autonomy Act was illegal, pitting him against the D.C. Council in court. But since Bowser believes it is legal, the court ruled that the case is moot. For some activists and D.C. officials, the decision means the act could take effect this year.  

D.C. Officials Break Ground on 'Capitol Crossing'

D.C. officials break ground on the Capitol Crossing project. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

Donning construction hats displaying a blue Capitol Dome, District of Columbia officials gathered under a tent adjacent to Interstate 395 Tuesday to break ground on the Capitol Crossing project.  

The $1.3 billion project, privately funded by Property Group Partners, will install five mixed-use buildings over the next four years in what is now just air above I-395. The project includes housing, restaurant, office and retail space, as well as new interstate entrance and exit ramps. Construction kicked off at the three-block space in Northwest D.C., bound by Massachusetts Avenue, Third Street, E Street and Second Street, amid concerns the project would cause congestion along the busy highway. But D.C. officials said the benefits of the project outweigh the temporary inconveniences.  

On Emancipation Day, D.C. Reflects on Lack of Rights

Women dress in period garb for the 2012 Emancipation Day Parade. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia is a time for celebrations and reflection, but also to draw attention to D.C.'s lack of voting rights in Congress.  

As public schools and local government offices closed Thursday to celebrate the 153rd anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves in D.C., Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., noted Congress was still open.  

National Watchdog Group Jumps Into D.C. Budget Autonomy Case

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton accused the D.C. mayor and council of playing "corrupt political games." (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Judicial Watch, a national watchdog group, has inserted itself into the District of Columbia court case surrounding the Budget Autonomy Act, arguing the mayor and the District Council are wrong to support the act and are playing "corrupt political games." "I think if you look at Judicial Watch, you see that we do focus a lot on national issues, but over the years we have focused on local issues around the country," Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha said in a Wednesday phone interview. "We’re an organization focused on the rule of law and we will bring lawsuits, tackle issues, whenever we think the rule of law is being violated. We think it’s going here. It’s happening."  

Judicial Watch signaled its intentions Wednesday, when President Tom Fitton said in a release, “Mayor [Muriel] Bowser and the D.C. Council are attempting a power grab to spend tax dollars without authority under law,” adding, “Our taxpayer client seeks to make sure no tax dollars are spent in violation of the well-established law that the Congress must appropriate the District of Columbia’s budget. D.C. taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the corrupt political games of its mayor and its D.C. Council.”  

Bowser and Racine Still at Odds in Budget Autonomy Case

Bowser doesn't agree with the city's elected attorney general about the Budget Autonomy Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The standoff between District of Columbia officials over the Budget Autonomy Act continued this week, with parties solidifying their positions in court filings and exposing a rift between the mayor and the attorney general.  

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently deviated from her predecessor , arguing that the act is legal, and has since filed a motion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that the case should be dismissed. The case centered on a disagreement between two branches of D.C. government about the Budget Autonomy Act granting D.C. more control over its locally raised funds. Bowser's predecessor, Mayor Vincent Gray, clashed with the D.C. Council and believed the act was not legal, but Bowser took the opposite position. She argued that since the mayor and the council no longer disagree about the act, the case is moot. But she still faces opposition from the District's attorney general and chief financial officer.  

Bowser Bans Travel to Indiana Over Religious Freedom Law

Bowser banned official travel to Indiana Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an executive order Tuesday prohibiting D.C. officials and employees from approving official travel to Indiana in response to the state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  

The RFRA bars laws that would inhibit a person, religious institution or business from following one's religious beliefs. But critics say the law opens the door for discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Bowser's order said travel will be banned "until such time that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is permanently enjoined, repealed, or clarified to forbid any construction that would deny public accommodations to persons based on their sexual or gender identity."  

A Federal Funding Fight Over D.C. Vouchers

Scott hugs students from the Richard Wright Public Charter School in D.C. on Feb. 9. He wants more funding for school vouchers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to protect the D.C. school voucher system, a GOP pet program championed by Speaker John A. Boehner and others.  

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans are gearing up to move forward on a bill reauthorizing vouchers in the nation's capital, an initiative known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. They are concerned the White House has again signaled the demise of the federally funded private-school program in its fiscal 2016 budget request.