Washington, D.C., Council Chairman Phil Mendelson announced Monday that he has repealed a controversial penal code bill that was being voted on by the U.S. Senate — a vote that may still take place this week.
At a news conference, Mendelson said the bill would later be reworked and resubmitted to the House and Senate. Still, the status of the existing legislation in the Senate was unclear on Monday.
The original D.C. law would have reduced maximum sentences for certain crimes, including burglaries, robberies, and carjackings, along with removing some mandatory minimum sentences. It faced backlash from conservatives and some liberals; Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, vetoed it last January, but the City Council overruled her veto.
Subsequently, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives stepped in with a measure to override changes in the city council. President Biden said last week he would sign the House measure rather than veto it.
Under the Constitution, Congress can serve as a super-municipal council for the District of Columbia.
BIDEN WILL NOT VETO BILL THAT BLOCKS DC’S CRIMINAL MEASUREMENT
DC Council President Phil Mendelson on Monday repealed a controversial Penal Code bill from Congress, but it’s unclear if it will still be voted on. (Getty Images)
Biden and some Democrats have clearly acted in part out of concern that the right would portray them as “soft on crime” amid rising crime in Washington. So the bill was voted this week by the Senate to be in line with the House. The measure would likely pass if as many as 20 Senate Democrats sided with all Republicans in Bigfoot D.C.
This would have been only the fourth time in decades that Congress has interfered in D.C. affairs.
It is now unclear whether the Senate can still vote this week, even if the point is moot.
DC Council President Phil Mendelson said the repeal of the Penal Code bill means it will be reworked and then resubmitted to Congress. (Getty Images)
“Not only does the statute not allow a broadcast to be withdrawn, but at this point the Republican Senate’s privileged motion will act on the House’s censure resolution, rather than the D.C. Council’s broadcast to the Senate. We still expect the vote to take place,” a Senate aide told Fox News.
Part of the question of whether to vote can be political. In other words, the GOP may just want to vote. But it is also questionable whether the Senate could have a vote at all, based on what the city council has done.
Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-TN, who was the leading Senate sponsor of that chamber’s version of the resolution to reverse DC’s crime bill, issued a statement Monday about the DC City Council’s effort to pass the passage of his law before an expected Senate vote on the measure. He called the attempt to repeal the bill a “fabricated maneuver” with no legal basis.
“This desperate, fabricated maneuver not only has no basis in the DC Home Rule Act, but it also underscores the utterly unserious way in which the DC Council has legislated,” he said. “As hard as they try, the Council cannot shirk responsibility for passing this disastrous, dangerous DC soft-on-crime law that will make residents and visitors less safe.”
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson withdrew a controversial Penal Code bill after President Biden said he would not veto a measure to block the legislation. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Biden had told Senate Democrats in a closed session last week that he would not veto legislation that would block the D.C. Council’s move to soften crime laws.
After the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., confirmed the president’s plans to sign the bill into law once it’s on his desk.
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Biden also tweeted upon his return to the White House: “I support DC Statehood and self-government — but I don’t support some of the changes DC Council has brought forward over the mayor’s objections — such as lowering carjacking penalties. If the Senate votes to nullify what DC Council did – I’ll sign it.
This is an evolving news item. Check back later for updates. Fox News’ Thomas Catenacci and Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.