House Democrats accused Republicans of harboring racist motives this week as the House voted against two new laws from the D.C. Council that the GOP charges are “radical” and dangerous to residents of the District of Columbia.
Republicans called up two resolutions that disapprove of the two D.C. Council laws and passed them in a mostly party-line vote. One of those laws allows non-citizens and illegal aliens to vote in the district and the other law reduces a wide range of penalties for violent crimes.
In floor debate, Democrats said the GOP push to reject the two D.C. laws was a direct attack on the mostly minority population of D.C. On Thursday, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. called the resolutions “paternalistic” and implied they are motivated by racism.
“By scheduling this vote, I can only conclude that the Republican leadership believes that D.C. residents, a majority of whom are Black and Brown, are either unworthy or incapable of governing themselves,” she said on the House floor.
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On Wednesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., accused Republicans of targeting minorities. She said GOP lawmakers “claim they believe in the sacred right to vote while denying that right to vote to an overwhelmingly Black city,” and accused Republicans of trying to “meddle into the business of D.C. residents.”
“They’re singling out the residents of the District of Columbia and expanding in the history of disenfranchisement that goes all the way back to the legacy of slavery,” she added.
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Despite these explosive charges, 42 Democrats voted with Republicans to pass the resolution disapproving of the law allowing non-citizens to vote, and 31 Democrats voted to eliminate the law reducing criminal penalties in the District.
Republicans used the debate to point out that the Constitution and the District of Columbia Home Rule Act give Congress explicit authority to oversee D.C.
“Congress has the responsibility and the authority to take this action,” said Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga. “Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution grants Congress the authority to, and I quote, ‘exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such District.’”
Under the Home Rule Act, laws passed by the D.C. Council are spiked if resolutions of disapproval are passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president – which is unlikely to happen given Democrat control of the Senate and opposition from President Biden.
“While we work towards making Washington, D.C. the 51st state of our Union, Congress should respect the District of Columbia’s autonomy to govern its own local affairs,” the White House said this week of the two resolutions.
Republicans also pointed out that the D.C. laws are dangerous. Last week, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said the law allowing non-citizens to vote “sends the wrong message to those who are seeking to come into our country illegally.” Other Republicans have said it would make the crisis at the border even worse by giving non-citizens more incentive to enter the country illegally.
Republicans noted that crime is soaring and that the D.C. Council law reducing criminal penalties would only hurt residents, tourists, foreign diplomats and others in the nation’s capital.
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“There’s a crime crisis in America’s capitol city,” said House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky. “According to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, carjackings in the District have increased by 90% compared to this time last year. Total property crime is up 31%, and homicides are up 29%.”
“But the radical D.C. Council has chosen to prioritize legislation that will turn this crime crisis into a catastrophe,” he said. “The D.C. Council’s progressive soft-on-crime legislation eliminates almost all the mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for violent crimes, and it drastically reduces the maximum penalties allowable to the courts.”
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Republicans this week also pointed out that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, refused to sign the law reducing criminal penalties, and that it was approved by the D.C. Council over her objection.