Biden Bill Signing Would Violate D.C. Home Rule

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.

I’m sure there’s a factual answer, but since this post is in Politics and Elections the answer is: “it doesn’t matter.” Even if the bill would be, on net, more effective in deterring and punishing crimes, it will still contain individual provisions that can be portrayed as “soft on crime.” One of the major GOP talking points is that the bill will apparently lower maximum sentences for carjacking and armed robbery. If you’re having to explain how “yes, but that’s only one facet of a complex overhaul of the administration of justice. . .” then you’re already losing.

Biden has a well-tuned ear for what will resonate with the political center, and he obviously senses “soft on crime” rhetoric as a vulnerability for the party and himself. Him saying that he will sign before it even comes to a vote in the Senate is him giving cover to vulnerable Senate Democrats running in red or purple states to vote for it to cover their flank. I wouldn’t be surprised if the resolution ends up pulling a dozen Democrat “ayes.”

I used to live in DC too. They need to make that place a state because the way its configured is just crazy. It’s not a city, not a state, but a District. Letting people that do not live in that district (Congressional members) control that place is a horrible idea.

The mayor and district council are just figureheads, every law they put into place can be overridden by people in Congress, people who do not reside in D.C. They just work there. People who pay taxes in D.C. pay the highest Federal taxes of any state, but they do not have any say regarding the laws, as Congress does that. Talk about taxation without representation.

Somebody needs to do something about the crime, period. I was almost mugged three times there, and successfully mugged once on those streets. I’m a big city guy w/ big city awareness, and this has never happened to me anywhere BUT D.C. Like a lot of people, I rode the Metro to and from work. After a while, you got to see the same crowd queuing up at the Pentagon bus terminal to transfer after getting off Metro. When someone would go missing, people were afraid to mention it. After a while, the missing people would show up, many of them sporting casts or bandages from being mugged. One guy was mugged and had an arm broken at an ATM in Dupont Circle in the daytime, and that was generally considered to be a safe area!

Chuck Schumer announced today that he’ll vote in favor of the resolution overturning the DC crime bill. It’s going to pass the Senate overwhelmingly.

For those keeping track – the resolution passed the Senate 81-14. That’s 33 Democrats (2/3 of the Democratic caucus) joining the Republicans to overturn DC’s crime bill. “Independent” Senator Kristen Sinema voted for the resolution. Georgia Senator Rafael Warnock – for some reason – voted “present.”