Senators on Both Sides Block DC Crime Bill

Senators on Both Sides Block DC Crime Bill

Senators on Both Sides Block DC Crime Bill

Did hell freeze over? Late on Wednesday, both Republican and Democrat senators voted to block the District of Columbia’s criminal code from becoming law. What’s more, President Biden indicated he would sign the bill. Who knew?


The Crime Bill the Senators Rejected

A little background here:

Last year the DC Council approved an overhaul of the city’s criminal code, and they approved it unanimously. It was the first time in over 100 years that the code underwent comprehensive changes. But the problems were the items included in the changes.

They were a criminal’s dream: the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences, as well as the reduction of maximum penalties for crimes like robbery and carjacking. Plus, it would also expand the right to a jury trial for most misdemeanors.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the measure, saying I believe it’s more important to get this opportunity right than to add policies & weaken penalties into what should be a bill that makes D.C. safer. She had right to veto it; Washington, DC has one of the highest crime rates in the nation, even when comparing it to cities of all sizes.

But the DC Council overrode the mayor’s veto. Supporters of the code, like defense attorney Patrice Sulton, who helped write it, defended it by saying it fixed “gaps in the law.”

The reason why Congress voted on the new code is because this is the District of Columbia, and since DC isn’t a state it falls to Congress to have oversight over the city. The Constitution permits it to review DC legislation, and even modify or overturn it.

Prior to the vote, protesters gathered outside the Capitol building, accusing lawmakers opposed to the new criminal code of wanting to “mass incarcerate” black people or something.

They want to mass-incarcerate us. To work in prisons for free, a billion dollar industry … If the ultimate goal was safety, we’d invest in education 4 our children or healthcare system for everyone or livable wages across the country.

Well, Congress didn’t go along with that. Most of the members, anyway.


Senators Who Voted For and Against the Bill

Thirty-three, count ’em, thirty-three Democrat senators voted with GOP senators to support the resolution to overturn the crime bill. And believe it or not, even Majority Leader Chuck Schumer voted with the Republicans. Naturally those who were up for re-election could read the tea leaves, and so Sens. Joe Manchin (WV), John Tester (MT), and Sherrod Brown (OH) also supported the resolution. They know that crime is a hot issue with voters.

Those who voted against the resolution and for the new crime bill included some of the usual suspects: Sens. Cory Booker (NJ), Mazie Hirono (HI), and Elizabeth Warren (MA). And, of course, socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, who resides in peaceful Vermont, voted against it, too.

And John Fetterman? He was absent, along with Dianne Feinstein, who’s suffering from shingles.

In the end, the resolution passed 81-14. Meanwhile, the House had passed the resolution by a vote of 250-173; once again, 31 Democrats joined with Republicans.


Progressives Have a Fit

ACLU member Udi Ofer was not happy about the resolution, tweeting:

For first time in 32 years, Congress overturned a law passed democratically by DC. This action not only slaps democracy in the face, but it also deals a huge blow to commonsense criminal justice reform efforts. History will not look kindly on this for several reasons

He added:

 … even if you did believe that higher sentences lead to more safety, then these same Congress Members should now attack Alaska, Kansas, North Dakota, Kentucky and 11 other states, since they all have lower penalties for armed carjacking than the DC law just overturned.

I can’t speak about Alaska, North Dakota, or Kentucky, but I do live in Kansas. And I can tell you that carjacking in the Sunflower State is not the problem it is in DC.

But Ofer did say this, with which I agree:

 … we know that these votes were driven by politics, not by data. Democrats are terrified that Republicans will portray them as soft on crime, and the Republican Congressional Committee has already announced that it will run ads against House Dems who voted for DC bill.

Of course it was all about politics, which is why last Thursday President Biden said that he wouldn’t veto the resolution if it passed. (Is there any doubt now that he’s going to run in 2024?)

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal berated Biden for his betrayal to progressive ideology.

Senators angry AOC 

Axios reported that an unnamed House Democrat was also outraged:

People are rip roarin’ pissed. He is going to have a much harder time asking people to take tough votes after this.

Meanwhile, House Republicans took a much needed victory lap at their conference meeting on Wednesday morning. They played Sarah MacLachlan’s lachrymose song “Angel” over slides showing tweets from Democrats angry at Biden for not promising to veto the bill. Heh.

Were the votes of the Democrat Senators and House members cynical ploys for votes? Of course they were. But at least some of them realized — even if for just this time — that citizens who send Congresspeople to Washington expect them to care more about them than criminals and race-baiters.


Featured image: NATO/flickr/cropped/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

1 Comment
  • GWB says:

    Senators on Both Sides Block DC Crime Bill
    That headline is a little confusing, if you don’t know what’s going on.

    The Constitution permits it to review DC legislation, and even modify or overturn it.
    Well, the Constitution actually requires Congress to run the city. They passed some legislation a while back giving DC “home rule”, meaning they’d let a city council and mayor run the place – unless they did something Congress disagreed with. So the Constitution doesn’t “permit” so much as “require”. Congress, as per usual, doesn’t want to waste its precious lobbyist dinner time doing stuff the Constitution requires of it.

    If the ultimate goal was safety, we’d invest … healthcare system for everyone or livable wages across the country
    IOW, communists. Seriously, “health care” has nothing to do with “safety” in the usual sense of that word, and neither do wages.

    Prior to the vote, protesters gathered outside the Capitol building
    You forgot all the falderol prior to the vote about Congress “violating DC’s autonomy.”

    DC Statehood is not just a voting rights issue, it’s a racial justice issue.
    No, it’s a matter of reading the f*ing Constitution. There’s a good reason the city in which Congress meets is under Congress’ jurisdiction, instead of the other way around, and particularly why it’s not a state.

    commonsense criminal justice reform efforts
    Only the words ‘criminal’ and ‘efforts’ are true in that phrase. And, if you put them together, it speaks directly to DC’s gov’t.

    they all have lower penalties for armed carjacking than the DC law just overturned
    “All the other kids’ parents let them hit themselves in the head with hammers. Why can’t I?”
    That’s pretty much the argument here.

    It’s truly amazing how much some people want Congress to do things NOT in the Constitution, and to avoid doing things that are in the Constitution.

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