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Biden signs legislation nullifying DC criminal code changes

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President Biden signed legislation on Monday that nullified the overhaul of the Washington, D.C., criminal code. 

While the president did not issue a statement accompanying the signing, he tweeted earlier in the month that while he supported statehood for the district, he “[does not] support some of the changes D.C. Council put forward over the mayor’s objections – such as lowering penalties for carjackings.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., hailed the move in a statement, calling it the end of what he labeled a “soft-on-crime criminal code rewrite that treated violent criminals like victims and discarded the views of law enforcement.”

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President Biden speaks with reporters before departing from the South Lawn of the White House on Marine One on March 17, 2023, in Washington, D.C. 

President Biden speaks with reporters before departing from the South Lawn of the White House on Marine One on March 17, 2023, in Washington, D.C.  (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Another Republican, Rep. Andrew Clyde, of Georgia, called this a “major first step to restoring law and order in our nation’s capital city.”

The Senate voted earlier in the month to block new crime laws and overrule the city government, with Biden pledging to sign the Republican resolution. When congressional passage appeared inevitable and the president indicated he would sign, the D.C. Council withdrew the measure.

Demonstrators hold a banner during a protest in front of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Wednesday, March 8, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Demonstrators hold a banner during a protest in front of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Wednesday, March 8, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

These actions marked the first time since 1991 that Congress nullified the capital city’s laws through the disapproval process – and a shift in the Democratic position that the federal government should let D.C. govern itself.

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Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the overhaul in January, explaining in a letter that she had “very significant concerns” about some of the bill’s proposals. Bowser later suggested changes after the council overrode her veto.

“This is just the beginning,” McCarthy said earlier this month. “It is a message for the entire nation.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., has pledged that his committee “stands ready to conduct robust oversight of America’s capital city.”

Then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on March 11, 2021.

Then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on March 11, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“I’m afraid that we’re going to see more of this for the remainder of this Congress,” D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told The Associated Press. “Does this raise a concern that there are going to be other issues? Yes.”

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The council maintains that the city’s criminal code is in need of reform.

The Oversight Committee has sent letters summoning Mendelson, D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen and D.C. Chief Financial Officer Glen Lee to testify at a March 29 hearing regarding the “general oversight of the District of Columbia, including crime, safety and city management.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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