Biden Bill Signing Would Violate D.C. Home Rule

Biden says he’ll sign GOP resolution overturning DC crime bill

Seems to me pure cynical politics if Biden signs. He can’t really be against D.C. home rule. And from what I’ve read about the D.C. crime bill, it‘s complex legislation not, on balance, radical.

Do progressives think it is OK for Biden to sign on grounds that Democrats need to win in 2024? If so, what other right-leaning actions should Biden take to win?

I can’t imagine this will have an appreciable effect on the Dems chances - thr GOP are going to call the democrats soft on crime no matter what happens.

It would amount to Biden letting a local government get screwed because he’s seeing ghosts.

Not to mention that it opens the new line of attack that tbiden all for letting criminals walk free unless their in his backyard.

I live in the DC area (although not in DC proper) and I’m pretty pissed at this. That DC residents are in the unique position of having influence on Congress, yet are also in the unique position of having that Congress directly control their lives, mixed with the fact that bashing DC is the surest way to get votes in their home state, makes a mockery of democracy in the nations capital. That Biden president would facilitate this turns my stomach.

As to whether the crime bill is a good or bad idea, frankly I have no idea as I haven’t read the details, but frankly that’s not for me to decide as I’m not a DC resident.

First of all, can the Dems really do anything to hurt their chances to win elections in DC. Second, I’d be interested to know why this bill passed. From the article, it seems that the only people that thought it was a good bill were the 12 that voted for it. Is there more to the story? Third, despite being tied to the Republicans, doesn’t this have the support of many House and Senate Democrats too?

Yes. This Slate article addresses your question:

In the end, the advisory group—including representatives from both prosecutors’ offices [(local and U.S. Attorney)] – voted unanimously to send the commission’s recommendations to the council. After making small changes, the D.C. Council unanimously passed the bill twice.

I wonder if the Biden administation’s discussions also concerned another D.C. bill raising mostly Republican hackles, with an override already passed in the House by a 260-173 margin, the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act:

The Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act would allow all [D.C.] residents over 18, regardless of whether they had legal permission to enter the country as long as they have lived in the district for 30 days, to vote in local elections only.

If a congressional resolution comes to Biden’s desk to override this D.C. voting bill, I think it would be hard for any President to veto. If the D.C. council was just giving the local vote to legal immigrants and the Dreamers, as is close to what is happening in New York City, this would be a moderate measure that Republicans could demagogue but where Biden would have a plausible centrist response. But to allow the GOP to truthfully say that Biden vetoed a bill stopping undocumented/AKA illegal immigrants from voting, even just in D.C. local elections, seems too much to ask of this administration. Maybe Biden thought that if he was going to have to violate the home rule principle once, he might as well do it twice.

Although it is hard to come up with a principled argument for what I will say next, I think there is greater justication for a congressional override of the voting bill than of the criminal law re-write. A politician sometime has to compromise principles to win – think about Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage back when it was utterly politically impossible.

I think you have to overturn the law allowing illegal immigrants to vote. If you allowed that to stand, then for once, one of the Republican myths about vote fraud would actually become true.

I don’t have an opinion on the other issue yet, but it seems clear to me that what DC wanted to do was just as dangerous to democracy as what many Republicans are doing across the country, just from a different angle.

Even if it only affects local elections, that is the same “trickle up” effect that is behind Republican efforts to crush opposition by controlling things at the local level that can then sway how elections are handled (including national elections). Just, again, from the other side.

So, does anyone know what the measure DC passed actually did?

Here’s a FAQ for the 450 page criminal law change:

If you can get past the paywall, here is a Washington Post editorial calling for the D.C. council to make changes to the bill while also upholding the home rule principle:

Normally, Chuck Schumer as Senate Majority Leader would be able to keep a measure like this from even coming to a vote in the Senate. But apparently statutes regarding DC home rule provide a mechanism for a Senate minority to force a vote on a resolution of disapproval.

The Mayor herself not being on board with the passage of the legislation as-is provides political cover for the federal Democrats. The Post article says, this may not be the best timing for the Council to make a Hold The Line For Home Rule stand, there may be a better hope in that the Council moots the issue by re-revising the proposal. Unfairly or not, standing hard on legislation like this gets perceived up on the Hill as daring them to do something about it.

(IIRC if the Congress is in-session during the next 10 business days after the bill is delivered to POTUS, he can just let it take effect by merely not vetoing it. No need to actively sign.)

A bit of a raw deal for the DC Council. A comprehensive Criminal Code reform even in a regular state is a legislatve PITA that turns into a multi-term slog with every possible stakeholder and interest group being on your case because they want their particular crime to either get cracked down on harder or be taken out of the criminal scope. All this, not providing you much near-term favorable political dividend.

If Congress acts, strictly legally it does not “violate Home Rule” since that whole apparatus is structured around that DC remains a dependency of Congress, who retain supremacy and power to intervene. But it still is a reminder of why the residents may want statehood.

Why was was expanding the franchise part of a criminal justice reform bill in tge first place?

But you would still need at least 2 Dems to vote for it to pass.

OK, that FAQ lays out the argument for the revision. What’s the argument against it? Clearly, there’s something in there that Congress and Biden object to-- What is it?

I’m not keen on reading the thing, but for Biden it might be as simple as following the recommendation of his executive counterpart in DC, the mayor.

But Mayor Muriel Bowser explicitly asked Biden to veto the disapproval resolution, saying that while she opposed the crime bill she more strongly opposed Congress overriding home rule. Her veto is being used as cover by Biden and Democrats who support the resolution, but the real reason is that they don’t want to be demagogued as being “soft on crime.”

They are actually TWO bills from the DC council. Congress is denying assent to both.

Thanks, that makes more sense.

OK, so this criminal-law reform is somehow “soft on crime”. That’s a start, but that’s awfully nebulous: In what way is it soft on crime? Is it even any softer on crime, on net, than the previous body of criminal law?

I appreciate the questions about the crime bill because I honestly don’t understand it either.

J. R. Delirious’s explaination in #10 seems reasonable, although it’s arguably a restatement of your question:

This is from a Washington Post editorial:

I don’t know enough to say whether Mayor Bowser was right to veto, and thus cannot judge the editorial. It doesn’t make sense to me is that the controversy mostly has to do with what happens if there is a trial when it appears that something I am generally against, plea bargains, are the norm in D.C.

Giving more defendants the right to a jury trial may sound good to some. But, given that jury trials are longer than bench trials, and that D.C. isn’t AFAIK increasing the number of courtrooms and judges, the net effect would seemingly be fewer trials and more plea bargains. That sounds bad to me but could be a misunderstanding on my part and is unmentioned in anything I have read.