Senate Republicans are setting a trap for President Joe Biden ahead of a vote next week on legislation that would reign in a controversial District of Columbia crime bill.
The DC City Council initially unanimously approved the legislation.
The bill would “eliminate most mandatory sentences, lower penalties for a number of violent offenses, including carjackings and robberies, and expand the requirement for jury trials in most misdemeanor cases,” according to The Hill.
Incredulously, the District suffers from near nonstop reports of increasingly fatal carjackings and robberies. Homicides are up 30% this year, according to the Metropolitan Police Department, and an astounding 78% of carjackings involve juvenile offenders.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed it, but the City Council crushed her veto in a 12-1 override vote.
The GOP-led House then passed a resolution of disapproval to block implementation of the law. That resolution is now a political nightmare for Democrats as it is expected to pass in the Democrat-majority Senate as well.
Typically, Democrats support the DC home rule, which maintains the District has the authority to to govern itself. Yet in the House, 31 Democrats joined Republicans in voting the resolution of disapproval.
The Senate vote is shaping up to be just as, if not more, bipartisan.
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said the legislation simply doesn’t make sense and he will vote in favor of the resolution. He may find similar sentiments from his colleagues facing tough reelection races in red or purple states in 2024.
If it passes as expected, President Joe Biden will find himself in the hot seat. He will almost certainly veto the resolution, allowing the law to go into effect in DC.
Republicans, then, will undoubtedly use his veto in campaign ads across the country for the rest of the election cycle.
UPDATE: In a shocking twist, President Joe Biden flipflopped on Democrats by announcing he will not veto the resolution.
“I support D.C. Statehood and home-rule – but I don’t support some of the changes D.C. Council put forward over the Mayor’s objections – such as lowering penalties for carjackings. If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did – I’ll sign it,” he tweeted.
The announcement garnered rage from progressive Democrats. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “If he was going to do it I wish he would’ve told us first, because this was a hard vote for the House members.”
“Cannot trust the White House,” said one House member according to CNN.
Biden’s decision spares Democrat senators in red states and swing states, where voting for such a progressive crime reform bill could have jeopardized their reelection chances. Still, the move is seen as a major win for Republicans and opens the door for attacks on House Democrats who voted against the resolution under the assumption Biden would have their backs.