The District of Columbia is a one-of-a-kind city. Not only is it the capital of the United States, but it also functions as a state without actually being one. Its city council passes legislation in the same way that a state legislature would, and the mayor either signs or vetoes it. Unlike a state, the federal government has direct control over the city.
That means that if DC passes legislation with which Congress disagrees, lawmakers have the authority to repeal it. That has happened only a few times, and not since 1991 — until now.
The DC Crime Bill
The DC City Council approved Bill 24-416, a contentious measure that purported to modernize the capital’s criminal code. It was the system’s first major overhaul since 1901. The Revised Criminal Code Act was vetoed earlier this year by Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), but the council had enough votes to override the veto.
The criminal code overhaul included criminal justice reforms, such as the elimination of nearly all mandatory minimum sentences. It also reduced the penalties for robberies and carjackings. Furthermore, for most misdemeanors, the law granted suspects the right to a jury trial.
Republicans and other critics slammed the bill as soft on crime at a time when crime is on the rise in the country.
Repeal is signed by Biden.
This year, Congress decided to take action and officially oppose the DC bill. Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) was attacked in her DC apartment building on the same day the House voted to repeal the bill. Kendrick Hamlin, 26, allegedly punched the congresswoman in the face and grabbed her neck while she was in the elevator. He fled after she threw hot coffee on him. The suspect was later apprehended by police and charged with simple assault.
A month later, the Senate also voted to repeal the bill. President Joe Biden initially stated that he would not sign the Republican-led legislation, but later changed his mind. On March 2, he tweeted that while he supports DC becoming a state, he opposes some of the changes made in the crime bill, “such as lowering penalties for carjackings.”
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.— President Biden (@POTUS) March 2, 2023
If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did – I’ll sign it.
On Monday, March 20, Biden fulfilled his promise by signing the bill’s repeal. It was the first time in more than 30 years that the federal government took action against the government of the nation’s capital. Some Democrats criticized the repeal of the law. After signing the repeal, the president did not issue a statement.