Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Says He’ll Vote with GOP on Overturning Controversial D.C. Crime Bill

On Tuesday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York told reporters that he would vote along with Republicans on overturning the controversial D.C. crime bill that would have reduced maximum penalties for specific crimes, including robberies, carjackings, and burglaries. 

When asked by reporters how the White House and his party had “so badly bungled this issue,” Schumer replied, “I’m going to vote yes. It was a close question. But on balance, I’m voting yes.”

The original legislation would have reduced the penalties for certain crimes and scrapped some mandatory minimum sentences. The bill faced harsh backlash from some liberals and the majority of conservatives. Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the bill in January. However, the City Council overrode her veto. 

The GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives stepped in to override the City Council changes with a measure. Last week, President Joe Biden said he would sign the measure instead of vetoing it. 

Congress can serve as a super city council under the Constitution for the District of Columbia. 

Senator Chuck Schumer confirms vote will happen this week

On Monday, Senator Schumer confirmed the vote would take place this week. A leadership aide in the Senate would take place on the House disapproval resolution instead of the D.C. council’s transmission to the Senate. 

Despite Democrats controlling the Senate, rejecting the criminal code seems likely. Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has already said he plans to vote to overturn the law. Another Dem Senator, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, continues his hospital stay to receive treatment for clinical depression. 

Last week, the president dashed hopes for a presidential intervention when he said he would not use his presidential veto if the measure arrived on his desk. President Biden has said he generally objects to the overturning of the laws of the city’s elected officials by Congress. 

When she vetoed the revised criminal code, Bowser said she opposed provisions such as reducing the maximum penalties for carjacking, burglary, robbery, and other offenses. 

“Anytime there’s a policy that reduces penalties, I think it sends the wrong message,” said Bowser in January. 

Mayor Bowser has explained that she prefers Congress to stay out of D.C.’s affairs; however, critics in Congress have frequently mentioned her veto as proof that the revision of the criminal code was out of step with conventional Democratic thought.

Monday, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the criminal code had been taken over by Republicans in Congress, accusing them of being eager to create contentious issues that would carry the party through the 2024 presidential election.

Council Chair Mendelson claims the controversial legislation was created to put President Biden and Democrats in the political hot seat in Congress. If representatives were to defend D.C.’s right to self-governance, they would be open to criticism of being soft on crime when crime is soaring across the U.S., including in the nation’s capital. 

“This is about using the District for national political purposes,” said Mendelson. “Crime lends itself easily to demagogic rhetoric.”