Criminal law

Biden says he will sign a bill blocking criminal law reform in D.C


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Washington – President Joe Biden On Thursday, he said he would sign a Republican-backed resolution that would overturn the order District of Columbia Controversial new rewriting of criminal sentencing laws despite his administration’s initial opposition to congressional intervention.

His signature would allow Congress to repeal the D.C. bill for the first time in 30 years, marking a rare moment for Biden to clash with local leaders in the nation’s capital. Backs make the 51st state.

“I support statehood in D.C. and self-government, but I don’t support some of the changes that the D.C. Council has put forward over the mayor’s objections — like reducing penalties for car thefts. If the Senate votes on nullification,” Biden said in a statement. What the D.C. Council did – I’ll sign it.”

Inside the criminal law fight in DC

  • Late last year, the D.C. City Council approved a new local criminal code that includes eliminating mandatory minimum penalties for many offenses and lowering maximum penalties for offenses such as theft and burglary.
  • The council, which leans strongly to the left, has overridden a veto by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat and Biden ally, who has raised concerns about reduced sentences for crimes.
  • Passage of the local law followed two decades of efforts to reinstate crime laws in the capital. It faced immediate criticism from Republicans, who have criticized Democrats as soft on crime in recent years. Washington saw the most murders in 2022 in nearly 20 years.
  • Legislation to repeal the D.C. crime code passed the house last month, with 31 Democrats joining the Republicans. He is expected to win bipartisan support in the Senate. The Senate vote could take place as early as next week. The United States Constitution gives Congress the power to overturn local legislation in the capital.
  • The White House Office of Administration said it opposes the decision in an official Feb. 6 statement of administration policy, saying, “Congress must respect the autonomy of the District of Columbia in the conduct of its local affairs.”

Biden faced a major political dilemma

Biden faced a major political dilemma whether to allow the resolution to become law or to veto it and expose himself to criticism as being soft on crime during the 2024 presidential election.

chose against the latter.

Biden has distanced himself from the left’s “defund the police” mantra. It is not difficult to imagine Republican ads next year accusing Biden of reducing sentences for criminals if he withdraws the veto pen.

more: What does statehood mean for Washington, D.C., and could it eventually happen?

However, you can bet that Biden will not be holding a public bill-signing ceremony for this one.

His signature will not go down well with many in the left-leaning capital who supported the president. Even Bowser, who opposed the House’s criminal code revisions, asked Congress to allow local leaders to handle the issue.

Nor will Biden’s decision please many of the activists who have pushed Biden to pass police and other criminal justice reforms.

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Explanation: The two opinions about the state of the capital

Opinions remain mixed as to whether the 712,000 residents of Washington, D.C., should be granted full citizenship. DC’s shadow senator Paul Strauss and Roger Pillon of the Cato Institute analyzed the differing viewpoints. (23 March)


what are they saying

  • White House press secretary Karen Jean-Pierre tried to walk a fine line on the issue when pressed by reporters Thursday, saying that Biden believes every city “has the right to self-government” but also wants to keep communities safe.
  • “This is different,” said Jean-Pierre. “The D.C. Council has introduced changes over the objections of the city’s mayor, and the president does not support changes such as reducing penalties for carjacking.”
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. He criticized Biden’s move in a tweet. “That’s not all. The capital has the right to govern itself, like any other state or municipality. If the president supports a state in the capital, he must govern in the same way.”
  • Tennessee Senator Bill Haggerty, one of the Republican sponsors of the resolution, said he was pleased with Biden’s decision. “I hope these reports are true and that President Biden no longer threatens to veto my well-reasoned decision to block a D.C. crime-fighting bill. Reducing violent crime should not be controversial.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

Connect with Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.


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