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House passes resolution to overturn DC policing changes

The White House said President Joe Biden would veto the effort to undo 'commonsense' measure in nation's capital

Chairman James R. Comer, R-Ky., attends a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing in March.
Chairman James R. Comer, R-Ky., attends a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing in March. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans passed a resolution Wednesday that would overturn a District of Columbia policing bill, once again flexing congressional authority to disapprove of a local measure from the District.

D.C. officials and House Democrats contend the law increases public safety, as it strengthens training requirements, prohibits hiring police who have a history of misconduct, and aims to bolster police accountability and transparency.

But House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James R. Comer and Republicans say the local measure restricts officers from doing their job and makes officer retention difficult at a time when carjacking rates grab headlines in D.C.

“The council has continued to overlook its law enforcement officers in favor of progressive soft on crime policies that only benefit criminals,” Comer said at a House Rules Committee hearing Monday. He added that lawmakers “must ensure that these pro-crime policies are not allowed in our nation’s capital.”

The disapproval resolution reflects a broader partisan debate in Congress over violent crime and law enforcement accountability and retention, but Democrats also tied it to a clash on D.C. home rule and District statehood.

The resolution passed the House on a 229-189 vote, with some Democrats voting with Republicans.

The vote comes just weeks after the Senate signed off on a GOP-backed measure to block the District’s new criminal code. President Joe Biden, despite vocal criticism from some Democrats, signed that GOP disapproval resolution.

But this time, the White House said Biden would veto the resolution over the police measure. A statement of administration policy said Biden will not support the push to overturn “commonsense” changes such as banning chokeholds, limiting use of force and deadly force, improving access to body-worn camera footage and requiring officer training on de-escalation and use of force.

“Congress should respect the District of Columbia’s right to pass measures that improve public safety and public trust,” according to the White House statement. “The President also continues to call on Congress to pass common sense police reform legislation.”

Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s nonvoting representative in the House, slammed D.C. disapproval resolutions during a floor speech Tuesday as “profoundly undemocratic, paternalistic legislation,” telling House members to “keep your hands off of D.C.”

None of the voting members of Congress are elected by or accountable to D.C. residents, Norton said.

“If D.C. residents do not like how the members vote, even on legislation that applies only to D.C., they cannot vote them out of office,” Norton said.

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