Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will vote yes on a Republican resolution to overturn a city law in D.C. that lowers penalties for violent crimes.
It’s part of a wider attempt by Democrats to pivot toward the middle on policing — or at least appear to be moderating — after the damage done to their brand by the politically radioactive “defund the police” movement that was sparked by the death of George Floyd.
President Biden signaled last week that he would support the resolution, which would reverse municipal reforms lowering the maximum penalties for crimes like carjacking and burglary and remove mandatory minimums.
Biden’s comments incensed Democrats who felt his move was an imposition on local autonomy in D.C., which is governed by home rule.
A 1973 federal law allows Congress to step in and block D.C. laws, but the power hasn’t been used in decades — until now.
Biden and his allies are looking to step in after the city council overrode a veto from mayor Muriel Bowser (D).
“Anytime there’s a policy that reduces penalties, I think it sends the wrong message,” Bowser said.
Asked about his plans Monday, Schumer said he had to think about it, but he will vote “yes” on the GOP resolution.
“I’m going to vote yes. It was a close question. But on balance, I’m voting yes,” he said.
Moving to the middle?
Like many cities, D.C. has seen a spike in violent crimes like murder and carjacking since 2020. Democrats have blamed the surge on COVID, rather than what many say is the obvious culprit: soft-on-crime policy and the demoralization of law enforcement by progressive ideologues.
In 2021, murders in the District of Columbia hit 227, the highest number in almost 20 years. One of those murder victims was a Pakistani Uber driver whose death at the hands of two teenage carjackers was widely publicized.
The last thing D.C. needs is more lenient punishments for criminals. For Democrats like Schumer, the vote offers an opportunity to neutralize Republican attacks that the left is weak on crime.
“We are the greatest superpower nation in history,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) said Wednesday. “This is our capital city. But local politicians have let its streets become a danger and an embarrassment.”
While Biden and his allies signal moderation, they have been pushing a sweeping federal police reform bill, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, that has failed to gain traction in a narrowly divided Congress.