Bipartisan Senate votes 56-43 to condemn D.C. City Council police reform measure

 May 17, 2023

The Senate on Tuesday voted in a bipartisan manner, 56-43, to overturn a police reform measure passed by the D.C. City Council in December 2022, the Washington Examiner reported.

The resolution of disapproval of the D.C. City Council's measure, which first passed the House in April but had since been stalled by Democratic senators, was revived and forced to the floor for a vote in a maneuver by Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), where it received a vote of approval from all Senate Republicans plus six Democrats and two independent members.

It will now head to President Joe Biden's desk for his signature, though he has previously stated his intention to veto the resolution while the D.C. City Council has flatly opposed and rejected the constitutionally authorized oversight efforts of the District by Congress.

Senate passes resolution to overturn D.C. City Council police reform measure

The Examiner reported that Sen. Vance filed what is known as a discharge petition that forced the stalled resolution of condemnation for D.C.'s police reform measure to the floor for a vote.

"Congress must exert our constitutional authority to keep our nation’s capital safe," the Ohio senator said prior to the vote. "It’s a disgrace that the capital of the most powerful nation on Earth has become so dangerous, but this sad reality is exactly what we should expect when far-left activists are calling the shots. For the good of every American who lives in or visits this town, I urge my colleagues to support my disapproval motion."

All Senate Republicans voted in favor of the resolution, as did Democratic Sens. Maggie Hassan (NH), Joe Manchin (WV), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Jacky Rosen (NV), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Jon Tester (MT), along with independent Sens. Angus King (ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), for a final vote of 56-43.

"Today’s vote is a victory for the safety and security of every American who visits our nation’s capital," Vance said in a statement following the passage of the resolution. "It is also a strong statement in support of the hardworking men and women of DC’s Metropolitan Police Department. With this vote, Congress has sent President Biden a clear and bipartisan message: the American people have rejected the radical left and they want to see law and order in Washington."

D.C. police reform would crack down on MPD, impose strict limits and accountability

The D.C. measure that the Senate just disapproved was first passed in December 2022 and ostensibly took effect in April, though that is debatable -- as are objections to the disapproval resolution from the D.C. City Council -- given that the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the right and responsibility to provide oversight with regard to the semi-autonomous local government that presides over the district.

The measure itself includes several strict reforms aimed at the Metropolitan Police Department that, among other things, limits its ability to fully enforce the law while also expanding accountability and discipline for officers accused of wrongdoing, and per the D.C. Police Union, has been blamed for an exodus of officers from the MPD over the past several months.

The Daily Caller reported that the House in March first filed a resolution of disapproval of the D.C. police reform measure, introduced as H.J.Res. 42 by Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA), and was passed by the House in April by a vote of 229-189, which included 14 Democrats who voted alongside all Republicans to approve the bill.

Congress previously overrode D.C. measure to relax criminal penalties

"On this National Police Week, the Senate passed my resolution to repeal the D.C. Council’s anti-police law with bipartisan support -- sending a resounding message that Congress will always back the blue," Rep. Clyde told the Daily Caller. "This is an incredible victory, as the Council’s deceptive legislation has dangerously obstructed the Metropolitan Police Department’s ability to both effectively protect Americans in Washington and recruit and retain officers."

"Now that Congress has used its constitutional authority to strike down the Council’s severely misguided law, it’s up to President Biden to abandon his veto threat and sign H.J.Res. 42 into law," the Georgia congressman continued. "Failure to do so will not only worsen Washington’s crime crisis by having fewer officers on the force, but will also demonstrate that the President favors emboldening violent criminals over supporting our brave men and women in blue."

"Today’s bipartisan win also marks the second time in a matter of weeks that Congress has used its exclusive legislative authority over D.C. -- a challenging feat that, before this year, was not successfully exercised in thirty years," Clyde concluded. "As Americans count on this institution to correct the failures of D.C.’s local leadership, I remain committed to restoring Congress’ full constitutional authority to manage Washington. Our Founders would expect nothing less -- and Americans deserve nothing less."

The Daily Caller noted that Rep. Clyde referenced in that statement the successful passage earlier this year of a similar joint resolution of disapproval that overrode a separate D.C. City Council measure passed last year that, if enacted, would have dramatically reduced penalties for a wide range of criminal behaviors, including some violent crimes like carjacking and robbery, that had actually been opposed as well by Democratic D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

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