Washington, DC Council reduces punishment for violent crimes, overriding Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser’s veto, prompting congressional action.
By Eileen Griffin
The District of Columbia Council passed a bill to lower penalties for violent offenses, overriding the veto of Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).
Two congressional Republicans aim to stop the bill from becoming law. U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) and Sen. Bill Haggerty (R-TN) will introduce a joint resolution disapproving the revised criminal code, the Daily Caller reports.
The U.S. Congress is the ultimate authority over the district, which has an elected government under federal law.
The DC Council’s revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 lowers penalties for several violent crimes, including carjacking, robberies, and homicides. Bowser vetoed the Act, but the council overruled her veto with a 12-1 vote on January 17.
Clyde and Haggerty have 60 days to gain bipartisan support for a resolution to stop the bill from becoming law. A resolution disapproving or modifying a proposed district law requires a majority vote by both houses of Congress and the signature of President Joe Biden (D).
Crime in D.C. has risen in recent years, just as it has in many cities led by Democrats. Homicides in D.C. have been increasing steadily in the last 10 years, from 88 in 2012 to 203 in 2022, Metropolitan Police Department data indicate.
Local television station WJLA Channel 7 referred to recent activity in the city as a “crime spree” after a violent Saturday in February. In one day, police responded to five unrelated shootings and three stabbings resulting in multiple deaths.
Bowser held a press conference to announce her intent to send amendments to the revised Criminal Code Act to the council.
“The updates to the legislation that I am sending to the council acknowledge that we must do all the work to send a strong message that we do not tolerate the use of guns or violence to harm or intimidate people in DC,” Bowser said.
Bowser’s amendments to the legislation would restore penalties for carjacking, which district residents have requested.
“A lot of the feedback and concerns I have heard from residents are around changes to penalties in the updated code,” said Bowser. “While no one believes that penalties alone will solve crime and violence right now we must be very intentional about the messages we are sending to our community including prosecutors and judges. We are united around this message. If you bring harm to our city, you must be held accountable.” .
Crime became top issues in the last midterm election, particularly in urban areas like Washington and New York City. Former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) ran for mayor of New York City with crime as one of his platform issues.
“We want a government that isn’t passing pro-criminal laws,” Zeldin told attendees at a campaign rally in October. “We want district attorneys that actually do their jobs and enforce the law, and we want to back, unapologetically, our selfless, dedicated men and women in blue.”
Campaigning on behalf of Zeldin, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) told the crowd of New Yorkers why their streets have become less safe.
“You cut police budgets, you do things like eliminate cash bail, and you have rogue prosecutors who won’t even enforce laws that they disagree with,” DeSantis said. “Of course, you’re gonna have streets that are less safe. Of course, you’re gonna have people that aren’t able to do the basics without fearing for their safety.”
The effort by Clyde and Haggerty to block the DC Council bill is likely to fail, The Washington Times reports. The Senate is controlled by Democrats and President Joe Biden is unlikely to sign the resolution.
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