DC council tries to claw back controversial criminal justice bill headed for failure in US Senate



D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson wrote a letter to the Senate on Monday in which he sought to withdraw the District’s criminal reform law from congressional review after it became clear the Senate intended to kill the legislation. has gone

“This morning, I submitted a letter to the Senate to withdraw the Criminal Code Reform Commission legislation,” Mendelson said during a news conference Monday.

“It is clear that Congress intends to override that law and therefore my letter, as I circulate the bills for their review, withdraws from consideration of the review.”

Aides to Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle are scrambling to understand the implications of his withdrawal attempt. A senior Republican aide said the GOP still expects a Senate vote this week to block the local legislation.

Another leadership aide added: “Not only does the law not allow for a transmission to be withdrawn, but the Senate Republican privilege motion at this time would act on the House’s disapproval resolution, rather than the D.C. council’s transmission in the Senate. . We still expect a vote. ”

Mendelson’s decision comes days before the Senate votes to overturn the crime bill. Legislation to overturn the bill was widely expected to pass and President Joe Biden said he would not veto the effort.

“Pulling it back means that the clock stops and it has to be recirculated in both houses and it will enable the Council to act on the measure in light of the comments from Congress and recirculate,” Mendelson said.

Mendelson added that he has “not found precedent” for the chairman of the D.C. Council to withdraw legislation that has already been submitted to Congress for review, but said he believes he has the authority because the D.C. Home The Rule Act gives the chairman the authority to send legislation to Congress.

“The Home Rule Act is very clear that I broadcast and there is no prohibition against me retracting it,” Mandelson said. “This law will not apply because I have withdrawn it.”

Still, Mendelson added that he’s not sure the move will “stop Senate Republicans, but our position stands: The bill is no longer before Congress.”

The upcoming vote has divided Senate Democrats, reflecting the delicate balancing act the party faces on the issue of crime. Biden’s announcement that he would not veto the measure before Congress angered some in his own party, including progressives who have argued that the district’s elected leaders should be allowed to govern themselves. has the right

Biden’s announcement also left moderate Democrats who voted against the Republican proposal more open to political attacks from the GOP for being soft on crime. Some of those moderate Democrats were angry with Biden for waiting to signal his intentions until after they had voted against the effort.

“The White House cannot be trusted,” said one House Democrat who voted for the measure last week.

Biden’s announcement opened the floodgates for several Democratic senators to announce they would vote for a measure to repeal the DC crime law. 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.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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