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Senate sends joint resolution on DC police to Biden

President plans to veto the legislation

Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, sponsored the Senate version of the House-passed measure considered Tuesday.
Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, sponsored the Senate version of the House-passed measure considered Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate cast a symbolic vote Tuesday to overturn a District of Columbia policing bill, setting up a promised veto by President Joe Biden.

The bipartisan 56-43 vote cleared a joint resolution to disapprove of a measure that D.C. officials and House Democrats say aims to bolster police accountability and transparency. It was considered under an expedited process requiring only a simple majority after being discharged from committee.

Supporters of the local policing measure say it increases public safety by strengthening training requirements and prohibiting the hiring of officers who have a history of misconduct. Meanwhile, Republicans have argued the local measure undermines officer retention and restricts officers from doing their jobs.

The disapproval measure underscored broader partisan disagreements in Congress over how to approach law enforcement accountability. Some Democrats painted the GOP-backed move as an attack on D.C. home rule, and sought to tie it to the debate over district statehood.

The Office of Management and Budget already has made clear that Biden would veto the joint resolution. Washington, D.C., Attorney General Brian Schwalb issued a legal opinion saying the Home Rule Act, a federal law governing relations between the federal government and the local government in D.C., is clear that the time for congressional review has expired.

“The effort by Senate Republicans to advance a disapproval resolution now, after the 60-day review period has expired, has no legal consequence for the validity of the law, and is nothing more than empty political grandstanding,” Schwalb said in a statement.

Senate sources said Tuesday the resolution in question remained privileged for floor consideration despite the 60-day review period having expired. That may open the door to votes on other such measures, regardless of whether they would carry the force of law.

Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican, introduced the Senate companion to the House-passed measure considered on Tuesday.

“Congress must exert our constitutional authority to keep our nation’s capital safe,” Vance said in a statement. “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.”

The White House statement of administration policy said that the president did not agree with the entirety of the D.C. Council measure but, “he will not support congressional Republicans’ efforts to overturn commonsense police reforms such as: banning chokeholds; limiting use of force and deadly force; improving access to body-worn camera recordings; and requiring officer training on de-escalation and use of force.” Last month, the disapproval measure passed the House on a 229-189 vote, with some Democrats voting with Republicans.

The vote came after the Senate signed off on a GOP-backed measure to block changes to the district’s criminal code. Biden, despite vocal criticism from some Democrats, signed that GOP disapproval resolution.
Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s nonvoting representative in the House, has sharply slammed D.C. disapproval resolutions, calling them “profoundly undemocratic, paternalistic legislation.”

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