by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
On Thursday, President Biden reversed course and announced that he would sign a bill rolling back the District of Columbia Council’s sweeping rewrite of its criminal code — a measure so ill considered that it was opposed by Democratic mayor Muriel Bowser and the liberal Washington Post editorial board.
The Post warned in January, as the council prepared to override the mayor’s veto, that the bill would make D.C. “a more dangerous city” by decreasing “punishments for violent crimes such as carjackings, home invasion burglaries, robberies and even homicides” and by tying “the hands of police and prosecutors while overwhelming courts.”
That warning was initially not enough to get the White House and the overwhelming majority of House Democrats to abandon their obsession with D.C. “home rule.” On February 6, the White House issued a veto threat decrying the “denial of self-governance” in the federal district as “an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded.” A few days later, House Republicans, joined by 31 House Democrats, passed a resolution disapproving of the new D.C. criminal code.
The House Democrats who voted against the House GOP’s resolution are now furious with the Biden administration for indicating the bill would be vetoed. “The White House f***ed this up royally,” one House Democrat told the Hill. “We are being hung out to dry.”
The obvious winners of Biden’s flip-flop are the law-abiding citizens of the District of Columbia, congressional Republicans, and the congressional Democrats who sided with them. The obvious losers are D.C.’s would-be criminals, the 173 House Democrats who opposed the rollback, and advocates of statehood for the District of Columbia.
Biden’s capitulation is proof that he and many other Democrats don’t really believe their rhetoric about statehood for D.C.