The vote on DC's crime law has nothing to do with crime for some House Democrats

stock image of crime scene tape and investigators
A stock image of a crime scene investigation.Ashley Cooper/Getty Images
  • Most House Democrats voted to uphold DC's criminal code revisions to support the District's right to self governance.

  • Now Republicans are using their votes and President Joe Biden's position on the legislation against them.

  • Some Democrats say they wished the White House had done a better job communicating with them.

For some House Democrats, voting to uphold the DC criminal code had nothing to do with their positions on crime.

The issue was the District's ability to self-govern, said Rep. Steven Horsford, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. That's why he was among 173 Democrats who opposed a GOP-led House measure last month to overturn the District's controversial crime law revisions.

"The District of Columbia residents and their local leaders should have the ability to make those decisions," Horsford, of Nevada, told Insider. "Do I agree with 100 percent of their decisions? It's not mine to say. It's theirs."

Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut also told Insider the problem for her was, "Congress intervening and overturning a local vote."

But now Republicans have weaponized their votes and President Joe Biden's position on the legislation against them. Only 31 Democrats supported the measure, which passed with 250 votes.

Ahead of expected Senate passage on Wednesday, the House Republicans' campaign arm released digital ads against Horsford, Hayes and 13 other Democrats, saying they "voted for reduced sentences for violent crimes." The attack was expected and is likely just the beginning after Biden said last week that he wouldn't veto the measure.

House Democrats are furious that Biden left them hanging, especially after his administration put out a statement opposing the GOP measure.

"I think that the communication could have been better from down the street at Pennsylvania [Avenue]," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar during a news conference Wednesday. "I've said that I was disappointed. That holds true. But our record on public safety is incredibly strong."

Horsford also said he doesn't care about the Republican attacks. But when asked about the Senate vote, he said he wished the Democratic-led Senate "would do its job" and prioritize legislation that protects Medicare, Social Security and voting rights.

"It's amazing how they have time for this issue, but they haven't made voting rights the issue and the priority that it should be," Horsford said.

The DC Council overrode a mayoral veto of their controversial revision of DC's criminal code to become law in January. But Congress has constitutional oversight of DC and can block the law because it is not a state.

Biden tweeted that he opposed some of the changes, such as lower penalties for carjackings. The new code, among other changes, would reduce the penalties for armed carjackings from a sentence between 15 and 40 years to a maximum sentence between 12 and 24 years, the Washington Post reported.

"So crazy even President Biden won't support the anarchy," the National Republican Congressional Committee ads say. "What's next? Defund the police?"

Hayes told Insider that she would have appreciated better communication from the White House on their position and she made that point to them.

"Even if we disagree on issues we should all…on the front end just kind of know where everyone lands on these things," she said. "We have a very open line of communication, which is why I was a little taken aback by that."

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has endorsed DC statehood and would not have supported the GOP legislation, even if the White House had not issued its statement opposing it, CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal told reporters.

"However, I think our people feel very frustrated because it feels like a betrayal of the fundamental principle of DC rule," she said.

Jayapal noted the leadership transitions among House Democrats and in the Biden administration, and said the caucus hasn't yet developed a relationship with Biden's new chief of staff, Jeff Zients, but is working on it.

"And so I think it will take a little bit of time for us all to get back on the same page," she told reporters. "I just think it's important for the administration to kind of see us as partners, and be talking constantly with our leadership, and be clear."

Read the original article on Business Insider