The House of Representatives passed a resolution on Thursday to block Washington, D.C., from allowing non-citizens, including illegal immigrants, to vote in local elections.
Another resolution focused on the nation’s capital, which aims to block D.C. from overhauling its criminal code, also passed the House on Thursday.
“Today the House took the first step to prevent two of the D.C. Council’s irresponsible and dangerous laws from going into effect,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY), who introduced the D.C. voting resolution. “These misguided efforts would allow crime to run rampant and disenfranchise American citizens in our nation’s capital.”
Under the Home Rule, Congress has the authority to review any legislation passed by the D.C. Council before it becomes law.
The D.C. bill allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections, but not federal elections, would go into effect in 2024, according to local news outlet DCist. Upon its passing last year, the bill’s lead sponsor, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, bragged of how she “championed expanding voting rights so that those who have made the District their home have the right for their voices to be heard in our local issues, no matter their immigration status.”
The other bill, the one overhauling D.C.’s century-old criminal code, would not take effect until October 2025. While proponents argue the overhaul updates and improves an outdated system, critics warn it would embolden wrongdoers by reducing the penalties for certain crimes.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) vetoed the criminal code changes, but the D.C. Council voted to override the veto. Bowser then proposed targeted alterations to the revised code, including restoring maximum penalties for gun crimes and carjackings, as well as delaying its implementation to 2027, per NBC Washington.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) assailed Republicans in Congress for introducing “undemocratic” and “paternalistic” resolutions to overrule the D.C. Council.
“Instead of abusing its power over D.C. by nullifying legislation enacted by the D.C. Council, the House should adhere to democratic principles and pass my D.C. statehood bill, which would give D.C. residents voting representation in Congress and full control over their local affairs,” Norton said in prepared remarks.
During a speech, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) accused her GOP colleagues of “expanding” their support of disenfranchisement in the “overwhelmingly black city,” pointing out how Republicans already oppose D.C. statehood.
“The D.C. City Council has the right to determine its policies for D.C. residents,” she said. “And if any member of this body does not like that, they can feel free to change their registration, resign their post and run for D.C. City Council.”
“The D.C. City Council has the right to determine its policies for D.C. residents. And if any member of this body does not like that, they can feel free to change their registration, resign their post and run for D.C. City Council.” pic.twitter.com/NQMf6QEJFd
— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) February 9, 2023
Both resolutions passed by the House on Thursday need to also be approved by the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. It was not immediately clear whether the upper chamber will consider them but the White House has already signaled its opposition.
“While we work towards making Washington, D.C. the 51st state of our Union, Congress should respect the District of Columbia’s autonomy to govern its own local affairs,” Biden’s administration told local ABC affiliate WJLA.