House passes resolutions to block DC noncitizen voting bill, criminal code

The House approved a pair of resolutions on Thursday that disapprove of the District of Columbia’s bill on noncitizen voting and its criminal code, as part of an effort to block the nation’s capital from enforcing the measures.

According to the D.C. Home Rule Act, Congress has the ability to block laws in the city from being enacted — a move that requires passage of a disapproval resolution in both the House and Senate, as well as a sign-off from the president. The measures, however, are unlikely to move in the Senate.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents D.C. in Congress, slammed the GOP-led effort.

“These profoundly undemocratic, oppressive, paternalistic disapproval resolutions are an unfortunate byproduct of D.C.’s lack of statehood,” she wrote in a statement following the votes.

The first resolution took aim at D.C.’s Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act, which allows noncitizen residents to vote in local elections. The D.C. Council approved the measure in October.

But on Thursday, the House voted to disapprove the bill in a 260-162 vote. Despite Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) urging members of her caucus to vote “no,” 42 Democrats joined with their Republicans colleagues in support.

The House also disapproved of D.C.’s revised criminal code, which was approved by the capital’s council in November.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) vetoed the bill, which the council overrode last month. The new terms do away with a majority of mandatory minimum sentences, decrease maximum penalties for violent crimes, and increase the right to a jury.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the sponsor of the criminal code resolution, applauded the passage of the measures.

“Today the House took the first step to prevent two of the D.C. Council’s irresponsible and dangerous laws from going into effect,” he wrote in a statement. “These misguided efforts would allow crime to run rampant and disenfranchise American citizens in our nation’s capital.”

“Our nation’s capital city is in crisis, but the D.C. Council has prioritized radical bills that would embolden criminals to remain on the streets and allow non-citizens, including illegal immigrants, to vote in local elections,” Comer continued. “We must ensure that these terrible laws do not take effect.”

D.C. Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb on Thursday said the House was “interfering with local DC self-governance.”

“Today’s move to overturn our laws is not about making the District safer or more just. Today’s actions are political grandstanding and highlight the urgent need for DC statehood,” he wrote in a statement.

“District residents are on notice that lawmakers seek to undermine our democratic process to gain political favor and are substituting uninformed politics for the views of those impacted most, DC residents,” Schwalb added.

Tags congress DC Eleanor Holmes Norton James Comer James Comer Katherine Clark Katherine Clark Muriel Bowser Muriel Bowser Washington

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