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Biden Signs Bill Nullifying DC Revision03/21 06:09

   President Joe Biden on Monday signed into law legislation nullifying the 
recent overhaul of the District of Columbia criminal code, but the fight 
between Congress and local lawmakers is continuing.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden on Monday signed into law legislation 
nullifying the recent overhaul of the District of Columbia criminal code, but 
the fight between Congress and local lawmakers is continuing.

   The signature merely marks the end of a raucous first chapter in a saga that 
has left district lawmakers bitterly nursing their political bruises, harboring 
fresh resentments against national Democrats and bracing to play defense 
against an activist Republican-controlled House for at least the next two years.

   House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hailed the move in a statement, calling it the 
end of what he labeled a "soft-on-crime criminal code rewrite that treated 
violent criminals like victims and discarded the views of law enforcement."

   But even before the bill was formally sent to sent to Biden, House 
Republicans were promising a season of direct congressional intervention in 
local D.C. affairs.

   "This is just the beginning," McCarthy, R-Calif., said earlier this month in 
a celebratory signing ceremony after the vote to cancel the new criminal code 
passed the Senate with significant Democratic support. "It is a message for the 
entire nation."

   D.C. Council members sound like they fully believe those promises.

   "I'm afraid that we're going to see more of this for the remainder of this 
Congress," D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said. "Does this raise a 
concern that there are going to be other issues? Yes."

   When congressional passage of the measure appeared inevitable and Biden 
indicated he would sign it, the D.C. Council withdrew the measure. But the move 
did not spare Biden a politically charged decision on whether to endorse the 
congressional action.

   Biden did not issue a statement accompanying the signing Monday. But he 
tweeted earlier this month that while he supported statehood for D.C., "I don't 
support some of the changes D.C. Council put forward over the mayor's 
objections -- such as lowering penalties for carjackings."

   Under terms of Washington's Home Rule authority, t he House Committee on 
Oversight and Accountability essentially vets all new D.C. laws and frequently 
alters or limits them through budget riders. But the criminal code rewrite is 
the first law to be completely overturned since 1991.

   House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., has pledged that 
his committee "stands ready to conduct robust oversight of America's capital 

   That robust oversight has already begun. Even before Biden signed the bill, 
the Oversight Committee sent letters summoning Mendelson, D.C. Councilmember 
Charles Allen and D.C. Chief Financial Officer Glen Lee to testify at a March 
29 hearing. The topic of that hearing, according to the letter, is the 
ominously vague "general oversight of the District of Columbia, including 
crime, safety, and city management."

   Other House Republicans have already identified areas of interest to target. 
Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia has introduced a resolution to block a police 
accountability law known as the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform 
Amendment Act.

   Most aspects of that law were passed by the D.C. Council on an emergency 
basis in 2020, amid the protests against police brutality following George 
Floyd's murder; it was made permanent in December 2022. It bans the use of 
chokeholds by police officers, makes police disciplinary files available to the 
public, weakens the bargaining power of the police union and limits the use of 
tear gas to disperse protestors.

   "Now that Congress has effectively used its constitutional authority to 
strike down the D.C. Council's dangerous Revised Criminal Code Act, we must now 
move to swiftly block this anti-police measure to ensure our nation's capital 
city is safe for all Americans," Clyde said in a statement.

   Clyde is a longtime nemesis of D.C. loyalists, having publicly stated that 
his ultimate goal is to completely end Washington's Home Rule authority. That 
sentiment, once a long-shot fringe position, has edged closer to being a 
mainstream Republican talking point. Former President Donald Trump publicly 
stated earlier this month that the "federal government should take over control 
and management of Washington D.C."

   Meanwhile, Oversight Committee member Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., 
has targeted the D.C. Jail for congressional scrutiny. Greene has demanded 
access to the jail to visit some two dozen detainees from the Jan. 6 
insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. She's also seeking a complete overview of the 
jail's conditions.

   Other aspects of D.C. legislation remain ripe targets for activist 
Republicans, such as the District's strict gun control laws or the decision to 
essentially decriminalize most psychedelics -- a move that was approved by D.C. 
voters in a referendum.

   This congressional onslaught of oversight was widely predicted when 
Republicans took back control of the House in last year's midterm elections. 
But most local politicians and activists hoped they could count on Democratic 
control of both the Senate and the White House as a shield. Those hopes rapidly 
melted away in a storm of political dynamics that amounted to a humiliating 
setback for the D.C. Council and the larger hopes of Washington ever achieving 

   House Republicans were able to put Biden and Senate Democrats in a political 
bind. By defending D.C.'s right to self-governance, they would open themselves 
to charges of being soft on criminals at a time of rising crime both in the 
nation's capital and across the U.S.

   In the end, Biden signaled before the Senate vote that he would not veto the 
rejection of the criminal code and 33 Democratic senators voted to overturn it. 
The moves were regarded by statehood activists as a betrayal that they say 
exposed the hollowness of Democratic support for D.C. statehood.

   For now, the D.C. Council maintains that the city's criminal code is 
dangerously obsolete and desperately in need of reform. But after seeing the 
initial law turned into a national political issue, there appears to be little 
appetite to try again in the short term.

   Mendelson said that changing the aspects that drew criticism, such as the 
lowering of maximum penalties for crimes like carjacking, would simply lead to 
other objections from a Republican House that he said is openly looking for a 

   "I don't plan on installing a hotline to Republican leadership in the House 
and the Senate and calling them every week and asking them for permission to 
move forward," Mendelson said.

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