The Republican-led House has launched the first salvo in what could be a long-running feud with the District of Columbia over self-government in the nation's capital.
In back-to-back votes, the House voted Thursday to overturn a sweeping rewrite of the criminal code passed by the City Council last year and a new law that would grant noncitizens the right to vote in local elections.
Congressional oversight of the district is written into the Constitution. And while it has been more than three decades since Congress outright nullified a D.C. law, Congress has frequently used alternative methods such as budget riders to alter laws on issues ranging from abortion funding to marijuana legalization.
The House voted 250-173 to overturn the rewrite of the criminal code, which among other things, reduced the maximum penalties for burglary, carjacking and robbery. The voting rights bill also was overturned by a 260-173 vote.
The moves may be partially symbolic since both would have to pass the Democratic-held Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden. However, both House votes garnered a notable amount of Democratic support with 31 Democrats voting to overturn the criminal code rewrite and 42 voting to overturn the voting measure. Biden has said publicly that he opposes both measures, but has not explicitly stated he would veto them.
Thursday's votes signal a new and openly combative phase in the District's tortured relationship with the federal government.
The debate has put D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a curious political position. Bowser f the city's criminal code in January, saying the maximum penalty reductions send “the wrong message” on crime prevention, Bowser also apposed a measure that would allow for jury trials in most misdemeanor cases, saying the sudden spike in jury trials would overwhelm the local justice system. Her veto was quickly overridden by the D.C. Council in a 12-1 vote.
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