The U.S. Senate on March 8 overwhelmingly approved a House-passed bill that would overturn a controversial D.C. crime law that critics have blasted as soft on crime. The measure will next go to the desk of President Joe Biden, who’s said he wouldn’t veto the bill.
The chamber passed the measure in an 81–14 vote.
The resolution would block the Revised Criminal Code Act (RCC), a law passed by the D.C. Council that lessens penalties for some violent crimes, such as carjackings and home burglaries. The reform was introduced as the district is experiencing a record-breaking crime wave.
That law was initially vetoed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, but the Council later overruled Bowser’s veto in a 12–1 vote.
Earlier this week, the D.C. Council member who introduced the revised criminal code said he plans to withdraw the measure amid the rising congressional backlash and after Biden said he wouldn’t veto the resolution if passed.
On Feb. 9, the House voted 260 to 173 to approve a measure that would strike down the law. The bill won the support of 31 Democrats.
The district’s crime reform measure came as the Metropolitan Police Department reported a substantial uptick in violent crime. According to that data, homicides are up by 33 percent over the same time last year, sex abuse is up by 120 percent, and motor vehicle thefts are up by 108 percent.
‘A Danger and an Embarrassment’: McConnell
Republicans say the D.C. Council’s bill will only serve to exacerbate the crime situation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaking against the bill in remarks on the Senate floor, highlighted recent criminal incidents in Washington.
“Carjackings and cartels have become a daily routine; homicides are racking up at a rate of four—four!—per week.”
McConnell also cited reports that assaults had become so commonplace on Washington public transportation that civilian volunteers have created their own patrols on Metro trains and platforms.
“We’re the greatest superpower in history,” McConnell said. “This is our capital city. But local politicians have let its streets become a danger and an embarrassment.”
By Joseph Lord