The Senate plans to vote on whether to block Washington, D.C.’s overhaul of its century-old criminal code from becoming law, even as city leaders tried to pull the legislation before federal lawmakers could weigh in. If the Senate resolution is successful, it would be the first in more than three decades to overturn legislation, striking a blow to the city’s efforts for self-rule and toward statehood, reports the Washington Post. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on Monday wrote to the Senate saying that he was withdrawing the city’s Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Ten.), who sponsored the disapproval resolution targeting the criminal code, called it a “desperate, made-up maneuver.” In a bipartisan vote, the House last month approved a companion resolution against the D.C. legislation; if the Senate agrees, President Biden has said he’ll sign it.
The D.C. legislation is a sweeping bill that changes the way many crimes are defined and sentenced in the city’s outdated code. Some in Congress have seized on provisions that reduce the statutory maximum penalty for crimes such as carjackings and robberies, labeling supporters of the changes as soft on crime. Proponents of the revisions say the debate has lacked nuance, noting that the changes create sentencing enhancements that can increase penalties. Mendelson asserted that he had the ability to withdraw the criminal code bill because the Senate had not yet acted on it. He later explained that pulling the bill was also intended to give the council more time to rework it and improve the messaging around it. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said a vote on the disapproval resolution is scheduled for Wednesday. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who had said it would take “exceptional” circumstances to interfere in D.C. legislation, added Monday that he would support the resolution, “given the safety concerns of Virginia commuters," Mayor Muriel Bowser's opposition to some provisions and Mendelson's attempt to withdraw the bill. Hagerty said that Mendelson’s move has no basis in the D.C. Home Rule Act, and it “underscores the completely unserious way the D.C. Council has legislated. No matter how hard they try, the council cannot avoid accountability for passing this disastrous, dangerous D.C. soft-on-crime bill that will make residents and visitors less safe.”