Mar 5, 2023 - Politics & Policy

D.C. lawmakers snubbed by Biden's crime law move

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser (R) speaks at a news conference at the John Wilson Building March 14, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a news conference at the John Wilson Building in March 2022. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

D.C. local officials criticized President Biden's announcement that he would block changes to the city's criminal code as a major setback for statehood in the nation's capital.

Why it matters: Officials say the intervention in D.C. political affairs undermines their legislative autonomy — and they fear that the congressional meddling may reach other bills in the nation's capital.

What they're saying: "This is about Republicans being able to nationalize this for politics and Democrats caving into this," D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who supports the revised criminal code, said Friday on WAMU radio, per NBC 4.

  • "I mean, this is an absolute travesty for statehood," Allen said.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) opposed the criminal-code revision, but said that she will never say that she wants "Congress meddling in the affairs of the District of Columbia."

  • "That’s a slippery slope, again, that we endure, not just with bills like this," Bowser said on NBC News' "Meet the Press Now."
  • "We have a lot of issues to overcome with limited home rule," she added.
  • “Today has been a sad day for D.C. home rule and D.C. residents’ right to self-governance," said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, per DCist.

The big picture: Biden's announcement clears the way for Congress to overturn a D.C. law for the first time in over three decades, after expected bipartisan approval in the Senate, Axios' Cuneyt Dil and Andrew Solender report.

  • Republicans with their majority in the House have launched a new era of intervention in D.C., with a particular focus on crime in the nation's capital. Congress has final authority over the city.

Zoom out: Biden, who says he supports D.C. statehood, previously issued statements of opposition to overturning the criminal code reform.

  • Republicans and some moderate Democrats, including Bowser, criticized the criminal code reform for reducing some maximum penalties for violent crimes.

What to watch: Local lawmakers fear that Congress may target other bills in D.C., such as those related to gun safety or health care.

  • "They can come after women’s health. They can come after gun safety. They can come after protecting transgender children from discrimination," Allen said.
  • "This is just the beginning of what we see Republicans be able to do and the Democrats just stood down."

Go deeper ... D.C. lacks plan to fight against Congress overturning its laws

Go deeper