D.C. declares early defeat on crime reforms ahead of Senate vote
Why it matters: The local legislation, which reduced maximum penalties for some violent crimes, sparked a national debate on crime and led many Democrats to side with Republicans in spite of their party’s support for D.C. home rule.
- It has led to a showdown between D.C. and Congress that could result in federal lawmakers blocking a local law for the first instance since 1991.
Driving the news: D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson sent a last-ditch letter aiming to withdraw the bill on Monday morning. Two Senate leadership aides said later the vote is still expected to occur.
- One aide told Axios that the Home Rule Act does not allow for such a withdrawal and that the Senate vote is contingent on a House-passed resolution, not the D.C. council’s transmission.
- Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), who introduced the Senate resolution overturning the reforms, called Mendelson's stated withdrawal a “made-up maneuver."
- D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton expects the Senate vote to still occur, her spokesperson Sharon Eliza Nichols said, downplaying Mendelson's claims of authority to withdraw a bill once it has been submitted to Congress.
What's happening: Mendelson's backtrack came after President Biden announced he wouldn't veto the GOP-led resolution, handing House Republicans a win and providing cover to vulnerable Senate Democrats.
What they're saying: "It will be a hollow vote" if Congress moves ahead on the overturn, Mendelson told reporters earlier Monday. He admitted he couldn't find a precedent for a D.C. bill being withdrawn from Congress during its required review period.
- "I don't know exactly what to expect," said Mendelson, on how the Senate will react to his move.
- He indicated council members will ultimately make adjustments to the reform package before resubmitting to Congress.
Between the lines: Mendelson said Biden's announcement last week that he wouldn’t veto the resolution probably meant more Democratic senators would join in support.
- The resolution has been expected to get substantial bipartisan support in the Senate.
- That could further enrage House Democrats, who were already incensed that Biden waited until after the House voted on the resolution to announce that he wouldn’t veto it.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional developments and background.