A top Washington, D.C., official moved to withdraw a controversial overhaul of the capital city’s crime code after President Joe Biden sided with Republicans in Congress who opposed it.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson sent a letter on Monday to Vice President Kamala Harris, who is the president of the Senate, announcing that he was withdrawing the Revised Criminal Code Act from congressional consideration.
“Withdrawal enables the Council to work on the measure in light of Congressional comments, and to re-transmit it later,” he wrote.
Despite Mendelson’s letter, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters the upper chamber still plans to have a vote. “They have a right to bring it up but there’ll be a vote on Wednesday,” he said, according to NBC News.
Proponents argued that the overhaul improves an outdated system, while critics warned it would embolden wrongdoers by reducing the penalties for certain crimes.
Members of the D.C. Council voted to overhaul the century-old criminal code last year. D.C. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the criminal code changes, but councilmembers voted to override the veto.
Still, the issue wasn’t settled as Congress has the authority to review any legislation passed by the D.C. Council before it becomes law under the Home Rule.
After the Republican majority in the House voted in February to disapprove of the Revised Criminal Code Act with the support of 31 Democrats, Biden announced his opposition to the overhaul last week as the Democrat-led Senate took it under consideration.
“I support D.C. Statehood and home-rule – but I don’t support some of the changes D.C. Council put forward over the Mayor’s objections – such as lowering penalties for carjackings,” Biden tweeted. “If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did – I’ll sign it.”
Bowser has proposed targeted alterations to the revised code, including restoring maximum penalties for gun crimes and carjackings, as well as delaying its implementation to 2027.