DC City Council tries to withdraw crime bill from Senate

The Washington, D.C., City Council is attempting to withdraw a bill that would amend the city’s criminal code after President Biden said he would sign a Republican-led resolution to block the measure, a surprising move that has given the bill little hope on Capitol Hill.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told the Senate on Monday that he wanted to withdraw the measure before a Republican vote to block it. But the leading Republican backing the push to nix the criminal code changes said Mendelson’s attempt to avoid a Senate vote was futile.

“This desperate, made-up maneuver not only has no basis in the D.C. Home Rule Act, but underscores the completely unserious way the D.C. Council has legislated,” Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) said. “No matter how hard they try, the Council cannot avoid accountability for passing this disastrous, dangerous D.C. soft-on-crime bill that will make residents and visitors less safe.”

A Senate leadership aide told The Hill that the Home Rule Act, which governs D.C., does not allow for the withdrawal of legislation, and that they still expected the Senate vote to occur.

“At this point the Senate Republican privileged motion will be acting on the House disapproval resolution, rather than the D.C. Council’s transmission to the Senate,” the aide said. “We still expect the vote to occur.”

The crime bill, which would have eliminated most mandatory sentences and lowered penalties for violent offenses such as carjackings and robberies, among other provisions, drew the ire of Republicans and some moderate Democrats. 

House lawmakers passed a resolution last month to block the new D.C. criminal code, which is also expected to pass the Senate with some Democratic support.

House Democrats slammed Biden over his unexpected announcement that he would sign the Republican-led resolution to block the D.C. bill, after indications from the White House that he would veto it.

Some Democrats accused the president of trampling on the independence of the city, after he has voiced support for D.C. statehood in the past.

Republicans framed the bill as a soft-on-crime policy, noting that D.C.’s own Democratic mayor, Muriel Bowser, was opposed to the legislation.

Mendelson said at a press conference on Monday that he was unsure if his attempt to withdraw the measure would succeed.

“I will say, I don’t know that that will stop the Senate Republicans, but our position is that the bill is not before Congress any longer,” he said.

Tags Bill Hagerty Joe Biden President Joe Biden senate republicans

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