A Republican House bill aimed at progressive district attorneys ran into trouble this week amid concerns from conservative lawmakers and sharp criticism from prosecutor groups, reports Roll Call. Once labeled as “ready-to-go” legislation by House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the tough-on-crime bill was listed for a possible floor vote this week. The measure would not force big-city progressive district attorneys to roll back their efforts to change the approach of the local criminal justice system. It would require their offices to report metrics to the Justice Department, such as the number of cases they declined to prosecute for certain crimes. The bill highlights the partisan divide over efforts from some prosecutors to implement different policies that advocates say are necessary because the system is unfair, too punitive and disproportionately punishes people of color.
Republicans made violent crime a key campaign issue in their midterm pitch to voters. Some Republicans say they have concerns that this bill would infringe on local decisions. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) withdrew as a co-sponsor of the bill on the floor Wednesday. hSe had concerns about infringing on states' rights, adding that most criminal justice issues are decided at the state level. “We need to make sure that we respect states’ rights and also go through the proper deliberation and debate in the committee,” Spartz said. “I was actually criticizing Democrats quite a bit for not doing it last Congress, and we can’t be hypocrites.” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), is not a supporter of the bill, which he described as the “federalization” of local law enforcement. The bill sponsor, New York Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, argues that it would provide a measure of accountability and that progressive criminal justice policies give criminals the greenlight to break the law. The bill, the “Prosecutors Need to Prosecute Act,” didn’t make it out of the Democrat-controlled House last session. It is unlikely to pass a Democrat-controlled Senate now. If the bill passed, local prosecutors who do not comply with the reporting requirement would be at risk of losing money from a Justice Department grant program.