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House push to override Biden veto over DC policing policy falls short

Republicans say law overly restricts police and is part of a 'soft on crime' agenda among Democrats

Reps. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., left, seen at a March hearing and Ben Cline, R-Va., introduced the joint resolution to disapprove of a District of Columbia policing law.
Reps. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., left, seen at a March hearing and Ben Cline, R-Va., introduced the joint resolution to disapprove of a District of Columbia policing law. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House on Tuesday was unable to advance its effort to overturn a District of Columbia policing bill, falling short of the threshold needed to override a veto by President Joe Biden.

The 233-197 vote did not reach the two-thirds majority needed to disapprove of D.C.’s law changing police policy. Biden vetoed the resolution last month, after a narrow majority in both chambers passed it.

D.C.’s measure bans police chokeholds, increases public access to police body cameras and requires that police use de-escalation techniques. It largely mirrors an executive order from the Biden administration that set similar rules for federal law enforcement.

Republicans have argued the law overly restricts police and is part of a “soft on crime” agenda among Democrats. Democrats, meanwhile, have argued the law represents needed policing reforms.

In a floor speech Tuesday, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. said Congress should not weigh in on policies D.C.’s own elected officials have decided for their own residents. “The D.C. Council has 13 members. The members are elected by D.C. residents. If D.C. residents do not like how the members vote, they can vote them out of office,” Norton said.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., said the D.C. law is part of broader anti-police rhetoric among Democrats and said such policies are responsible for law enforcement officers leaving departments nationwide.

“Policies like those in D.C., this deeply misguided police reform law only empowers criminals at the expense of our men and women in blue,” he said in a floor speech.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said the GOP bill would override the will of more than 700,000 voters in the nation’s capital city and showed Republicans would tolerate police abuses of power because it took police disciplinary practices out of collective bargaining negotiations.

“This provision is why Republicans want the Congress of the United States to behave like a 535-member, nationally elected Super City Council with the power to overturn the work of the 13-member local council and the District of Columbia, elected by the actual residents of Washington, D.C.,” Raskin said in a floor speech.

An override resolution has almost no chance of passing the Democrat-led Senate, where it would require another 10 members of the president’s party to vote to override. The measure passed the chamber on a 56-43 vote last month.

Initially, the House passed the disapproval measure on a 229-189 vote, with several Democrats joining the chamber’s Republicans.

In his veto message, Biden wrote that it is “an obligation to make sure that all our people are safe and that public safety depends on public trust.”

Biden also criticized Congress for not respecting the Washington government’s decisions about its own police policy. Congress, he said, “should respect the District of Columbia’s right to pass measures that improve public safety and public trust. I continue to call on the Congress to pass commonsense police reform legislation.”

Last month, Norton praised Biden’s decision to veto the disapproval resolution in a statement and called on Congress to pass her legislation granting statehood to D.C.

“Almost 700,000 people live in the nation’s capital, and they are worthy and capable of governing their own local affairs,” Norton said. “Congressional Republicans disagree, believing instead that D.C. residents, a majority of whom are Black and Brown, are incapable and unworthy of the same respect afforded to residents of their own districts.”

The police disapproval measure is one part of a broader effort by House Republicans to target D.C. laws they dislike. That includes a successful effort to overturn a local criminal code overhaul and an unsuccessful push to overturn a law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections.

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