President Joe Biden may be forced to decide the fate of a new District of Columbia bill that relaxes punishments for serious crimes, after several dozen Democrats joined the Republican-led House in rejecting the legislation.
As Byron York of the Washington Examiner explains, under the U.S. Constitution and laws governing D.C. “home rule,” Congress has the power to nullify D.C.’s own ordinances, if both houses and the president agree.
Congress rarely exercises that kind of oversight, but it was moved to do so by a new D.C. crime bill, York writes (original emphasis):
Recently, the City Council finished a reworking of the district’s criminal code. With crime rising, the City Council, acting in the name of equity, decided to reduce penalties for a range of serious crimes. A Washington Post editorial noted that the bill “decreases punishments for violent crimes such as carjackings, home invasion burglaries, robberies and even homicides. [It] will further tie the hands of police and prosecutors while overwhelming courts. With the capital city awash in handguns, the measure would also scale back penalties for convicted felons illegally carrying firearms, as well as for using them to commit crimes.”
The bill reduces the maximum penalty for criminals convicted of using a gun to commit a violent felony from 15 years to four years. It eliminates mandatory minimum sentences. It also eliminates life sentences altogether. To her credit, [Mayor Muriel] Bowser vetoed the bill. To its shame, the City Council, by a nearly unanimous vote, overrode the mayor’s veto. The new criminal code was passed.
Earlier this month, the Republican-led House voted in favor of legislation to block D.C.’s new crime bill, as well as a bill that would allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.
Senate Republicans / Twitter
There may also be enough Democrats who would join Republicans in the Senate to block the D.C. bills.
The White House has indicated that President Biden would veto such a resolution, leaving the new D.C. laws in place. In a statement, the White House said that the twin efforts to block the D.C. bills ” are both clear examples of how the District of Columbia continues to be denied true self-governance and why it deserves statehood.”
However, York writes, that stance could prove politically costly: “If Biden runs for reelection, he will certainly face a Republican accusing him and his party of being soft on crime. A vote to uphold the council’s soft-on-crime bill will not help.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
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