(VitalNews.org) – Liberal lawmakers are unhappy with President Joe Biden’s decision not to veto an act of Congress that stopped Washington, D.C., from softening penalties on violent crime. Perhaps none more so than Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who responded in her characteristically youthful dialect, “This ain’t it.”
Under the U.S. Constitution, the District of Columbia is ultimately governed by Congress, not any local government. It is only because of a voluntary act of Congress in the 1970s that D.C. has a city council and a mayor.
If it chooses, Congress has the right to dissolve these local governments.
Ocasio-Cortez continued her criticism, raising the question of whether she understands the Constitutional arrangement that governs the District. “DC has a right to govern itself,” she said (inaccurately) while expressing disappointment in Biden.
For his part, the President says he supports the idea of statehood for the District and the concept of home rule. Elevating the District to state status would require a Constitutional amendment.
But, Biden said, he doesn’t support the changes D.C. wanted to make to its criminal code. The proposed changes would have reduced the penalties for many types of violent crime. They also would have required the District to offer full jury trials to those charged with misdemeanor offenses (jury trials are generally reserved for felony charges).
When the D.C. City Council voted to push through several measures softening penalties on violent crime, even D.C. mayor Murial Bowser opposed them. She vetoed the local bill. But then the Council overrode her veto, provoking the U.S. Congress to take action.
Not all Democrats were on board with D.C.’s proposals, regardless of what they may think about local control or home rule. They didn’t want the President to interfere with a Congressional action that would keep punishments high for crimes like carjacking and rape.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson withdrew the controversial criminal code bill on Mondy, March 6.
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