DC is trying to WITHDRAW controversial crime bill from Congress before the Senate and Biden can block it: Council will rewrite law lowering penalties for violent crimes that sparked Democrats’ fury at the White House
- The Senate is set to vote on a resolution to block the new DC law
- Biden said he would sign GOP; it would weaken some sentences
- DC Council president wants to withdraw it, but vote would likely still advance
The DC City Council Speaker has written to Vice President Kamala Harris asking to withdraw legislation to amend the city’s penal code that was about to be reprimanded by the US Senate.
The sudden move came as more Democrats followed President Joe Biden’s lead, after he signaled he would sign a Republican bill to block the measure – even as his administration grew angry for breaking his own warnings about protecting autonomy in the city.
But there were indications that the last-ditch effort was likely unsuccessful and may have been framed as an opportunity to try and change the optics of the situation – with voting continuing anyway.
“Not only does the law not allow for the removal of a transmission, but at this point, the Senate Republicans’ preferred motion will act on the House disapproval resolution, rather than the transmission from the DC Council to the Senate.” said an aide to the Senate leadership, who told DailyMail.com: ‘We still expect the vote to take place.’
President Joe Biden has said he will sign a bill that would block changes from a DC City Council law to the Washington Penal Code. The chairman of the board wrote to Vice President Kamala Harris saying he was withdrawing his transmission of the bill to the Senate, in an effort to avoid a vote his side risked losing.
Chairman of the Board Phil Mendelson writing Vice President Kamala Harris in her capacity as President of the Senate to inform her of her decision, although it was not immediately clear that it was her responsibility to make such a decision. The Home Rule Act for DC provides for congressional review of local laws.
“I pass bills and I didn’t pass this bill,” Mendelson told local reporters. His letter stated that the effect was to “remove this law from consideration by Congress.” Mendelson said the Council, which backed the combined penal code changes over Mayor Muriel Bowser’s objections, would amend the law and bring it to Congress later.
It was not immediately clear what effect the move would have. Republicans have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to use the Senate vote to expose a rift between Democrats — likely winning a House victory and then watching Biden sign legislation that has split his coalition. With Biden’s posture known, the decision needed to pass with a comfortable margin, perhaps a veto-proof majority.
Said Medelson: “A growing number of Democrats in the Senate have said they haven’t taken a position, which is never a good sign, or that they would support the waiver.” Then when the president said there would be no veto, that tells me there were probably more senators joining.
His comments came after Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of her party’s leadership and not associated with the party’s moderate faction, indicated she would support the decision to overturn the law. This indicated that the measure may well pass by a comfortable margin, which could reduce some of the pressure on Biden to sign it.
Congress can do this under the Constitution, which grants it guardianship of the federal city.
“It may be optics, but it’s also optics of finding a way forward,” Mendelson said, saying changes are still needed in the city’s code.
The OMB Administrative Policy Statement tore up the resolution saying, “This taxation without representation and denial of self-government is an affront to the democratic values upon which our nation was founded.”
“Our options are better with the withdrawal of the bill, and if Republicans choose to go ahead with a hollow vote, that’s their choice,” he said.
On Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was put on the defensive amid House Democrats furious over why the administration said it was against the measure for reasons of self-government for the city, only for Biden to say he would sign it if he reached his office.
“It’s about next year’s campaign,” Mendelson said. “That’s what it’s about, it’s about making videos that this or that senator voted to be lenient on crime in the District of Columbia.”
“One thing the president believes in is making sure the streets in America and communities across the country are safe,” Jean-Pierre said. “This includes DC”
His comment came after some House Democrats were furious after Biden announced he would sign the resolution after many of them voted against it.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told CNN on Sunday that he plans to speak about it privately with Biden.