WASHINGTON (CN) — Senate Republicans and Democrats both came out in force Wednesday to strike down a controversial package of changes to D.C.’s criminal code that, if made law, would have relaxed certain criminal penalties in the city.
Congress’ upper chamber Wednesday evening passed a resolution sponsored by Tennessee Senator Bill Hagerty rejecting the D.C. Council’s proposed revisions on an 81-14 vote — a show of bipartisan opposition to the measure which council chair Phil Mendelson said Monday had been withdrawn from consideration.
Because it is a federal district and not a state, D.C.’s laws must be approved by Congress.
Passed in January, the council’s bill would have, among other things, lowered penalties for crimes such as carjacking and robbery. The measure would also have eliminated most mandatory minimum sentences and relaxed guidelines for maximum sentences. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the legislation, but her action was overridden by the council.
Prior to the vote, Hagerty took an early victory lap on his resolution.
“This resolution will be a victory for every American who wants to feel safe when they visit their nation’s capital,” Hagerty, a Republican, said. “This will be one of the only opportunities during this Congress for this body to send a broad message on violent crime — a message that may impact the safety and security of Americans throughout our nation. Stopping violent crime should not be a Republican or Democrat objective, it should be a common sense one.”
Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen railed against the resolution in floor remarks.
“This resolution is an attack on the democratic rights of the people of the District of Columbia, which has its own duly elected democratic representatives,” Van Hollen said. “The mayor, the D.C. Council, its residents and its citizens are fully capable of deciding their own law and deciding their own future.”
Van Hollen was one of just over a dozen senators to vote against the resolution.
Although the White House had previously said it opposed Hagerty’s resolution, President Joe Biden has said that he would sign it, contending in a March 2 tweet that his administration still supports home rule for D.C.
The House in February passed the disapproval resolution, with 173 House Democrats voting in opposition.
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