Congressional Democrats are reportedly very upset with President Joe Biden over Washington, DC’s soft-on-crime bill debacle that “blindsided” some of them.
On Thursday, Biden’s Twitter account published what appeared to be a stunning policy shift on a local soft-on-crime law that took Democrats by surprise. Biden said he would sign a Senate Republican-led resolution to block the District’s soft-on-crime law after allegedly opposing the Republican’s resolution, though Biden had expressed no explicit veto threat.
House Democrats indicated Biden would veto the disapproval resolution on the District’s soft-on-crime law, according to Punchbowl News. “That’s why party leaders worked to limit the number of Democratic defectors when the House voted Feb. 9 on the measure – thus ensuring they were under the threshold for overriding a presidential veto,” Punchbowl reported. “Democratic leaders whipped everyone but Battleground Democrats on the measure.”
“They [White House] gave a signal that led the House Democrats to take certain actions and the president then took a different position when he came to the Senate — speaks for itself,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters about being blindsided by the president.
Moreover, Biden’s public statement on signing the Republican resolution frustrated Democrats further when he highlighted the reduced punishments for carjackings in the District’s law as the reason for supporting the Republican resolution.
“I don’t support some of the changes D.C. Council put forward over the Mayor’s objections – such as lowering penalties for carjackings,” Biden’s Twitter account said. “If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did – I’ll sign it.”
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.
If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did – I’ll sign it.
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 2, 2023
Aides and lawmakers reportedly were infuriated that Biden would point to the soaring crime rate. House Democrats, many of whom had already voted to block the GOP resolution, supported a reduction in carjacking punishments at a time when crime is skyrocketing in the District.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, 94 carjackings have occurred so far in 2023. Homicides have dramatically increased (25 percent), along with theft from auto (21 percent), theft (16 percent), and arson (300 percent).
On Monday, District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) issued a letter to the Senate to withdraw the soft-on-crime portion of the District’s law before the Democrat-controlled Senate votes for the Republicans’ resolution. It appears Mendelson’s letter was a preemptive attempt to cancel the soft-on-crime law to protect Biden from having to take action on the resolution, pending the Senate’s approval. At least five Senate Democrats had pledged to support the GOP resolution overturning D.C.’s soft-on-crime law pending Biden’s pledged signature.
The district’s criminal law, which reduced punishments for a variety of serious criminal offenses, was enacted by D.C.’s city council, which overrode the mayor’s veto — all while crime increased at the beginning of 2023.
Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø. He is the author of Politics of Slave Morality.
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