(The Center Square)
Washington D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson announced Monday that he would withdraw from congressional consideration a controversial crime law that would reduce some criminal penalties even as crime spikes in the nation’s capital.
Mendelsohn said the changes would be reworked. The US Senate is expected to vote on and potentially rewrite DC’s criminal code, which has drawn opposition from even President Joe Biden.
Congress could scale to override the DC City Council, though local DC leaders dispute that as part of an ongoing fight for autonomy. The House voted to do just that in February, and despite the withdrawal, the Senate is expected to follow up with its vote on the matter this week.
“This desperate, contrived maneuver has no basis in the DC Home Rule Act, but underscores the absolutely serious way the DC Council has enacted legislation,” said Sen. R-Tenn. Bill Hagerty said. “No matter how hard they try, the Council cannot avoid responsibility for passing this destructive, dangerous DC soft-on-crime bill that will make residents and visitors less safe.”
The law also gives non-citizens the right to vote.
Biden has previously said he would not veto if Congress voted to override the City Council.
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Total crime in DC is up 25% so far this year.
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The bill would reduce the maximum penalty for crimes such as murders, armed robberies, armed home invasions, armed carjackings, unlawful possession of a firearm and certain sexual assault crimes.
According to DC government data, as of Monday in 2023, murders are up 31%, sexual assaults are up 113%, motor vehicle thefts are up 110% and arson is up 300%. Some crime categories are down slightly, and assault with a deadly weapon is about the same level as this time last year.
The battle over the bill has characterized the debate over how liberal leaders in America’s big cities are approaching criminal justice as homicides have risen sharply in recent years.
A recent incident has put a face to the statistics and motivated members of Congress on the issue.
Last month, Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., was robbed in the elevator of her apartment building in Washington, DC, and suffered minor injuries.
That evening, 26-year-old Kendrid Hamlin was arrested. Hamlin has a long criminal history, often involved in incidents near the Capitol.
“Passing a bill that would reduce sentences for first- and second-degree murder, carjacking, assault on law enforcement officers, sexual assault and other crimes under the guise of reform would be laughable, if not downright dangerous,” said Culley, a legal and crime expert at the Heritage Foundation. Stimson and Zach Smith said in a joint statement to The Center Square.
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Stimson and Smith argued that this type of lax treatment led to repeat offenders among young people.
“Furthermore, the kid-gloves ‘second chance law’ for violent juveniles has led to at least 120 offenders being charged with “progressive” murder under the ‘Youth Rehabilitation Act’ since 2010,” he said. “This is not reform; This is madness, and DC residents are paying with their lives.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre took tough questions from visibly agitated reporters at a press conference last week. That problem overshadowed others when Jean-Pierre tried to toe the line for the presidency.
“So, look, the president has made it clear that we need to do more to reduce crime, to make communities safer, to save lives,” he said. “And that’s why they put it together — they put forward their Safer America plan — which we believe will do exactly that.”
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.