As part of an effort to prevent the District of Columbia from enforcing the measures, the House of Representatives on Thursday passed a pair of resolutions that express disapproval of the District of Columbia’s bill on noncitizen voting and its criminal code. These resolutions were approved as part of an effort to block the nation’s capital from enforcing the measures.
The District of Columbia Home Rule Act gives Congress the authority to prevent local laws from going into effect. However, in order to exercise this authority, a resolution of disapproval must first be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate before receiving the approval of the president. However, it is quite doubtful that the bills will move forward in the Senate.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the District of Columbia in Congress, criticized the campaign that was led by the Republican Party.
“These profoundly undemocratic, oppressive, paternalistic disapproval resolutions are an unfortunate byproduct of D.C.’s lack of statehood,” she wrote in a statement following the votes.
The first resolution targeted the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of the District of Columbia, which enables noncitizen residents to cast ballots in local elections in the District of Columbia. In October, the legislation was passed with approval from the D.C. Council.
However, on Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 260-162 against disapproving the law. In spite of the fact that Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts) urged members of her caucus to vote “no,” 42 Democrats joined their Republican colleagues in support of the measure.
The amended District of Columbia criminal code was passed by the council of the capital city in November, but the House of Representatives did not agree with the changes.
The Democratic Mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser, issued a veto on the law, but it was overridden by the council one month ago. The new provisions eliminate a significant number of mandatory minimum sentences, reduce the maximum sentences that can be imposed for severe offenses, and expand defendants’ rights to trial by jury.
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Rep. James Comer (R-Ky), who was the primary sponsor of the motion to amend the penal code, expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the vote.
“Today the House took the first step to prevent two of the D.C. Council’s irresponsible and dangerous laws from going into effect,” he wrote in a statement. “These misguided efforts would allow crime to run rampant and disenfranchise American citizens in our nation’s capital.”
“Our nation’s capital city is in crisis, but the D.C. Council has prioritized radical bills that would embolden criminals to remain on the streets and allow non-citizens, including illegal immigrants, to vote in local elections,” Comer continued. “We must ensure that these terrible laws do not take effect.”
On Thursday, the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, Brian L. Schwalb, accused the House of “interfering with local DC self-governance.”
“Today’s move to overturn our laws is not about making the District safer or more just. Today’s actions are political grandstanding and highlight the urgent need for DC statehood,” he wrote in a statement.
“District residents are on notice that lawmakers seek to undermine our democratic process to gain political favor and are substituting uninformed politics for the views of those impacted most, DC residents,” Schwalb added.
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