Biden’s about-face on the DC crime law angers Democrats
President Joe Biden’s decision to allow Washington, D.C., to potentially repeal reforms to the criminal code has left him facing sharp blowback from his own party as he begins his re-election campaign. Preparing for
The GOP-led move to promise to sign the legislation reflects a growing desire among more moderate Democratic lawmakers to avoid being soft on crime, especially after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s surprise primary loss earlier this week. In view of The D.C. policy was criticized by Republicans and others as being too soft on violent criminals, seeing an increase in violent crime along the District of Columbia.
However, Biden’s revelation Thursday in a meeting with Senate Democrats that he would allow the bill to become law overcame objections from progressives and D.C. residents, who said the president was giving Congress the autonomy of Washington citizens. are letting them step on their ability to govern.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, is “very disappointed” by Biden’s decision.
“It’s simple: The District of Columbia must be allowed to govern itself. Democrats’ commitment to home rule should apply regardless of the substance of local legislation,” he said in a statement to CNN. “That is why the Congressional Progressive Caucus and its members have supported DC statehood, along with every CPC member, in co-sponsoring DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s bill in the 117th Congress. Statehood is the only way to protect the 700,000 residents of the district from this kind of interference, we will continue to pursue this cause.”
The President’s decision also contradicts the earlier stance of his own administration, Last month the administration put in a statement of policy, which stated, “Congress must respect the autonomy of the District of Columbia to govern its local affairs.” Biden tried to explain the reasoning behind his change of heart, saying in A tweet from his official account, “I support DC statehood and home-rule – but I don’t support some of the changes proposed by the DC Council over the mayor’s objections – such as reducing the fines for carjacking. If the Senate votes to reverse what the DC Council did – I will sign it.
A vote on the measure is expected in the Senate next week. It has already passed the GOP-controlled House.
Amid furor from House Democrats, the White House on Friday sought to strengthen its relationship with the caucus as many expressed dismay at how Biden handled the matter.
The House passed the resolution on February 9, with 173 Democrats voting against. At the time, the understanding among Democrats was that Biden opposed the bill — in no small part because of the White House statement.
Press secretary Karyn Jean-Pierre said the White House notified House Democrats of Biden’s intentions to sign it — but only this week, on his return to Baltimore, weeks after they cast their vote.
“The president and the administration also have a very close relationship with House Democrats and Senate Democrats,” he said. “We’ve worked together, the president has worked very well with members in introducing bold, historic legislation in the first two years of his administration and is very proud of his relationship with them, and our teams continue to are in. communication with them.”
He told CNN’s MJ Lee that the administration’s policy statement saying the White House opposed the resolution was deliberately vague, without explicitly saying Biden would veto it.
“We never said where the president was going to go,” he said.
“We always allow the process that Congress will do, whatever method it takes,” he added.
He said that despite Biden promising to sign the first measure in three decades, D.C. remained committed to statehood that would overturn one of its laws.
“If Congress sends him a bill making DC a state, he’ll always make sure to sign it,” he said. “He’s been talking about it for the last two decades.”
The White House has not said whether the president spoke with D.C.’s Democratic mayor, Muriel Bowser, before speaking with Senate Democrats about his decision not to veto the Republican legislation.
Bowser said in an interview with local radio station WAMU on Friday that the district is “dealing with the effects of limited home rule, and we know that our legislative process is one that does not end with my signature or veto.”
He added that “unless we’re the 51st state, we live with that indignity” and that it’s “outrageous” for the district to be in that position.
Bowser previously opposed the bill, but also opposes congressional interference in district affairs.
The decision to repeal the local D.C. council and the D.C. state’s rights has left progressives and advocates upset. Many Democrats oppose overriding the law on principle, arguing that local officials should make their own laws free from congressional interference.
Democratic Rep. of New York. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded directly to Biden’s comments, disputing the president’s claim that he supported DC’s ability to govern itself.
“it is not. DC has the right to govern itself like any other state or municipality. If the president supports D.C. State, that’s how he should govern,” Ocasio-Cortez said. tweeted on Thursday night. “Many places have passed laws that the president may disagree with. He should respect the government of the people of DC as he does elsewhere. ”
Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, told CNN, “The people of the district should have the right to have their council accountable to them and not worry about what Congress is going to do with local decisions. ”
Senior House Democrats told CNN that the White House did not raise any concerns with their caucus before the vote. Additionally, they are upset because Democrats have long supported D.C. autonomy and statehood has become a top priority for their caucus — and Biden’s position now undermines their party’s vision. .
But the biggest concern: the lack of communication from the White House to House Democrats. Now, many Democrats — including many in swing districts — will face fresh GOP attacks that paint them to the left of Biden on the soft and powerful issue of crime.
“The White House cannot be trusted,” said one House Democrat who voted for the measure on Friday.
Still, Biden’s decision has opened the floodgates for a series of Democratic senators to say they want to overturn the D.C. crime law as well — a reflection that many lawmakers are concerned about crime as a growing political issue. are
Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly told CNN that he thinks many of his Democratic colleagues “will vote for it,” including him. Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey counted himself among that number, though he argued he had already made up his mind before Biden’s announcement. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico said he would also vote in favor.
Many others, including staunch defenders of D.C. State, said they were still weighing the issue.