Biden Not Vetoing Popular Bill!
Some Democrats are angry!
The Hill (“House Democrats blindsided as Biden changes tune on DC crime bill“):
House Democrats were infuriated and taken aback by President Biden’s announcement on Thursday that he will sign a resolution to nix the District of Columbia’s crime bill.
The crime bill has come under heavy criticism from Republicans and centrist Democrats. But last month, 173 House Democrats voted along with what they thought was the White House’s stance that Biden would veto the resolution in an attempt to stand up for the District’s “home rule.”
Instead, Biden made the revelation to Senate Democrats during lunch on Thursday and, in the process, angered their colleagues across the Capitol complex.
“The White House f* this up royally,” one House Democrat told The Hill via text message, noting the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing the resolution and backing D.C., and that House Democratic leadership told lawmakers that Biden was prepared to veto the measure.
The declaration from the Office of Management and Budget called on Congress to “respect the District of Columbia’s autonomy to govern its own local affairs.”
“So a lot of us who are allies voted no in order to support what the White House wanted. And now we are being hung out to dry,” the lawmaker continued. “F AMATEUR HOUR. HEADS SHOULD ROLL OVER AT THE WHITE HOUSE OVER THIS.”
The House Democrat added multiple other lawmakers were “EXTREMELY pissed” about the situation.
Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.), the No. 3 House Democrat, issued a rare rebuke of the White House during a Punchbowl News event at the caucus’s retreat in Baltimore, saying that Biden’s move was “disappointing.”
“It’s disappointing for me and anybody who believes in home rule, honestly. I’m a former mayor of a city of 70,000 and I wouldn’t want the federal government coming in and telling me what city ordinances to pass. … So I think it’s disappointing in that context,” Aguilar said.
“I voted against it, but I understand and respect the president’s position here,” Aguilar, the former mayor of Redlands, Calif., continued. “We’ll see, the Senate has to pass that, and I know that they’ve said they have the votes but all of those things have to happen. But it’s disappointing for those of us who believe in home rule.”
Why the federal government would have say over local ordinances in Redlands, California is beyond me. But the President and Members of Congress actually live in DC, which was created specifically as a federal district to house the federal government.
An aide to a House Democrat who opposed the measure texted that the caucus is “a little shocked” by the move.
The crime bill passed the D.C. City Council unanimously in January. After Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) vetoed it, the city council overrode it 12-1. Among other things, the bill would eliminate most mandatory sentences and lower penalties for a number of violent offenses, including carjackings and robberies. It would also expand the requirement for jury trials in most misdemeanor cases.
In a tweet, Biden specifically mentioned the issue of carjackings. As of Thursday, there have been 94 carjackings in D.C. in 2023 alone.
“One thing that the president believes in is making sure that the streets in America and communities across the country are safe, that includes in D.C. That does not change,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday.
“When it comes to what this proposal brings forth, which is really lowering penalties for car-jacking, he doesn’t believe that’s going to keep our communities safe,” she added.
Being opposed to carjackings is, in my judgment, a safe political position.
Nevertheless, the move still left Democrats with a sour taste in their mouths.
“Today has been a sad day for D.C. home rule and D.C. residents’ right to self-governance,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said in a statement. “We had hoped that with more Senate support, we would have been able to ensure that neither disapproval resolution pending before the Senate would reach the president’s desk, but with the nationwide increase in crime, most senators do not want to be seen as supporting criminal justice reform.”
I’m sure! But maybe they actually oppose this particular bill, which was passed over the DC mayor’s veto?
Holmes Norton added that she will still try to convince Biden that absent a veto, the resolution “would empower the paternalistic, anti-democratic Republican opposition to the principle of local control over local affairs.”
Except that the bill only passes with Democratic votes, given that Democrats have a majority in the Senate.
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), both of whom are up for reelection in 2024, have said in recent days they plan to side with Republicans on the resolution, giving those backing it enough daylight to put it over the finish line even with the hospitalizations of Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
The news is also expected to push more Democrats to side with Biden and the centrists.
“I’m reviewing the actual provisions of the D.C. crime bill, talking to colleagues. And the president obviously said he will not veto the measure, which I think may weigh with my colleagues,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who is also up for reelection in 2024, told reporters following Biden’s news that he still is undecided on the resolution and has not been briefed on it yet.
So, essentially, without the veto threat, Democratic Senators are free to vote their conscience? Or the way they think their constituents want?
Indeed, the POLITICO report on this (“Biden won’t veto GOP effort to repeal D.C. crime law“) is more emphatic on that front:
And Biden’s lack of a veto threat might open the floodgates on the D.C. crime vote. Several Democrats predicted an overwhelming margin of support to roll back some of D.C.’s recent progressive crime measures.
“I think that’s where most of the caucus is. Most of the caucus sees the mayor in a reasonable position as saying: 95 percent of this is really good, some of this is problematic. And we need to keep working on it,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said after the meeting.
Back to the Hill report:
From a political standpoint, Biden’s decision to block the D.C. crime bill could come back to haunt the House Democrats who opposed the disapproval resolution. Some Republicans are already characterizing the revised code as soft-on-crime, which they could eventually extend to those 173 liberal lawmakers.
“By rejecting D.C.‘s law, President Biden acknowledged the basic fact that soft-on-crime policies endanger the public,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) wrote on Twitter.
Democrats are already worrying that they played into the GOP’s hands.
“Frankly, it’s a clear signal to those criticizing POTUS on being soft on crime amid the increased focus on the issue going into 2024 — and on the heels of Lightfoot’s ouster,” the aide said, referring to the Chicago mayor’s re-election defeat this week.
Aguilar, for his part, brushed off that notion on Thursday, pointing to legislation the caucus has passed and efforts it backed that support public safety.
“Democrats believe in strong public safety,” he said. “That’s what we’re demonstrating in our bills and demonstrated time and time again.”
The POLITICO report adds:
t appears that Democrats’ discomfort with the D.C. law — a near-rewrite of the capital’s criminal code — is carrying more weight than their natural inclination not to interfere.
“I guess [Biden] thinks it’s too far — a bridge too far, which it really is. I’m glad he said that,” Manchin said leaving the meeting, adding that he clapped loudly when Biden disclosed his view to his fellow Democrats.
House Republicans first teed up the bill in February, amid a highly public clash between D.C.’s council and its mayor over the sweeping crime bill. In the House, the GOP-led bill won support from 31 Democrats, many of them moderates who have already called for stronger action on nationwide rise in crime since the pandemic. One swing-seat Democrat who backed the bill, Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), voted for it mere hours after she was assaulted in her D.C. apartment building.
Biden’s move to let Congress stop the criminal code changes in D.C. may aggravate locals, but will be a relief to many congressional Democrats who are weary of GOP attacks on them over progressive urban crime proposals. And it comes as prominent Democrats are talking less about Biden’s age or whether he should run again and more about working together heading into the 2024 election.
As to the merits of the bill, a YahooNews report (“How a criminal justice reform effort collapsed in D.C. — with Biden’s help“) adds this context:
Gun violence has jumped by 40% in D.C. since 2017. City officials fear that their efforts at making the district safe are being undone. Many other U.S. cities are suffering the same plight after overseeing historic drops in violent crime in the new century’s first two decades.
But politics is obviously the bigger factor:
Fears over crime handed Chicago’s incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot a resounding defeat in that city’s Democratic primary earlier this week, with pro-police centrist Paul Vallas emerging as the top vote getter.
There are political considerations for Biden, too, especially as he prepares to announce that he will seek a second term in the White House. One of the likely contenders for the Republican presidential nomination is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who recently spoke to law enforcement groups in Democratic states, where he engaged in hard-edged and hyperbolic rhetoric.
Former President Donald Trump, who has already announced that he is running for the presidency, charged last month that “the Biden administration does little to curb crime across the country.” Crime rose during Trump’s term, too, though both in his case and Biden’s, factors well outside presidential control—such as a global pandemic — were partly responsible.
Still, Biden’s announcement that he would not veto the Republican-led effort to block the criminal code revisions could blunt soft-on-crime attacks by DeSantis, Trump and other Republicans.
His decision came as Republicans were in the midst of turning the district’s attempt at criminal justice reform into a national issue, reviving relentless attacks they made in the run-up to the 2022 congressional midterms, with limited success.
This time, GOP legislators cast themselves as sober custodians of a capital city given over to dangerous progressive ideas on public safety.
“To a unique degree, unlike any other city in America, Washington D.C., issues are national issues. The District of Columbia doesn’t belong to a handful of local politicians, it belongs to more than 330 million American citizens,” Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate, said at a hearing earlier this week.
Honestly, it seems that the only thing wrong the White House did here—and it’s significant—is to issue a statement reflexively opposing a Republican initiative before assessing it on the merits.
The President is on the record supporting DC Statehood and is generally in favor of “home rule” for the city over local affairs. But, as this measure shows, McConnell is actually right: DC is unique among American cities as the nation’s capital. Laws passed by the DC Council affect lawmakers, thousands of federal employees who commute to the city for work, and millions of tourists from around the country. It’s not surprising that Congress has some say over them.
There’s thousands of federal employees and millions of tourists in Texas too. Is it surprising Congress has no say over their laws?
Ah, the sweet smell of “soft on crime” rhetoric in the morning.
There is little evidence that incarceration as practiced in the US reduces crime. There is ample evidence that mandatory sentencing is inequitable, expensive, and useless. By and large, “criminal justice” codes are childishly authored and passed with emotion, but not with much thought or evidentiary backing.
I would love it if this country could engage in a debate in good faith about crime and justice and community compensation. Alas, we can’t, because we’re treated to crime as political theater, as though there are no root causes. You either want to imprison more people, or every newspaper will publish some bullshit comment with the words “soft on crime” – usually by quoting someone because otherwise it would just look too much like an op-ed.
(And because apparently it needs to be pointed out, using current statistics to show that carjackings are a problem tells us that the prison sentences for carjackers are unlikely to be a consideration for people stealing cars. Do people really think there are like 100 more folks in DC who are just itchin’ to shove a gun in someone’s face to get their car, if only there wasn’t a mandatory sentence if they get caught?)
Congresscritters and federal employees who are established D.C. residents already have a say: they can vote for mayor, city council, and sherriff. I don’t get why they should get a super elite extra say via their role in congress, or why legislators who are not D.C. residents should get to veto actual residents. Is Manchin’s yacht docked in D.C. proper?
And the notion that Congress should veto local laws based on tourist traffic and commuter traffic is odd. I had an interest in Santa Monica politics when I was commuting there for years from Hermosa Beach and later West Hollywood, but this didn’t mean my elected representatives at my addresses should’ve also controlled Santa Monica’s laws.
I don’t agree with the president and Vichy Dems triangulating to make the D.C. city council moot. D.C. Democrats are apoplectic about their representation being negated, and for good reason. Democrats should be pointing out that to lower crime we must reduce poverty and increase quality of life — by investing in education, healthcare, gun control, affordable housing, and wage growth. Democrats should not be echoing Republicans’ empty rhetoric.
The situation in DC was similar to that of Mexico City. Both were stand-alone cities overseen by the federal government, not part of any state. So-called federal districts (Mexico City’s name officially was México Distrito Federal). Both have moved towards self-rule, too.
The main difference is from the start Mex City did have elected representation in both legislative chambers, and could vote for president. But until 1997, the city’s chief of the executive was appointed by the president, and there was no local legislature.
Until recently, too, while the mayor of the city was popularly elected, the president could overrule them. This has changed by now. The city is now formally called just Mexico City, and it’s set up as a city state (or city province). With elected officials for the political subdivisions, elected legislature, a city constitution, etc.
So, make DC a state already, or incorporate it into a state.
BTW, Mex City was carved out from Mexico State upon independence. previously it had been the capital of both Mexico Province and the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Mexico State then got Toluca as its capital.
Regarding carjacking the old law had the max for armed carjacking at 40 years. The new law drops it to 24 years, which keeps it more in line with the average sentences being handed out. So calling these changes pro-carjacking is like saying fixing the hot water heater in a jail is pro-criminal.
None of this matters if you have zero life experience and believe (sorry–you have ‘priors’) that there are pro-carjacking lawmakers out there or something. But Biden should know better, or maybe not. But he should no better than to believe that this will somehow make him less pro-crime in the dead eyes of Ted Cruz or DeSantis.
What @ptfe said.
This is definitely a case where the optics of this don’t match the underlying logic from the law (including moving the suggested sentencing guidelines in line with the actual sentences that are being handed out) and addressing how the current guidelines lead prosecutors to engage in strange charging dynamics.
For a pretty well balanced understanding of why this criminal code was being updated and the rationale behind those updates, check out this NPR report specifically on that topic:
Here’s an example WRT carjacking:
Your last point is huge and always drives me crazy. The whole deterrence argument seems to hinge on someone contemplating a criminal act doing a Comex cost benefit analysis where it is a good idea to commit the crime with a 10 year max sentence but not at 15. Really? I would think most crimes are committed by people who are confident they won’t get caught or so desperate they aren’t thinking about consequences. Or so rich they think they can but their way out.
BTW, this is a really great example of what criminal legal system reformers (even the more conservative ones) have been bracing for over the last year and a half–there have been a lot of successful reform efforts and other reform efforts that most likely will be successful but need more time to measure that may be rolled back due to the relative spike in crime over the last few years.
The election of Eric Adams and his focus on “broken window” policing is just one example of this. This type of rejection of fact-based sentencing reform is another example of a shift away from the progress made in the teens and early 2020’s. There is a lot of concern that we will see a shift away from the policies that have helped put a dent in our mass-incarceration problem.
This is also why successful reformers cultivate thinking in decades rather than years.
Which is why Rep. Aguilar marked the statement as a hypothetical by saying “wouldn’t want” (as in if such a condition were possible) instead of “didn’t approve” or “refused to submit” or even “didn’t like/want.” Diction matters.
And, if you actually look at the number of police cases closed by conviction, especially for more serious crimes, the reality is that there is more than a fighting chance they will get away with it.
@Pete S: Imagine the Excel doc you would need to maintain! Annual clearance rate, accessibility of victims, risk of in-crime harm, min/max sentence, typical sentence (and mandatory or not), post-crime distribution options, min/max payout, payout probability, payment format and ease of moving that (=> compounded crime risks – see corresponding sheet) – all that rolling up into a neat “To Crime Or Not To Crime” index.
I’ve read many times the theory that a system with high odds of arrest and conviction deters more crime than one based on harsh sentences.
The only caveat is that sentences ought to be reasonable.
And yet, the private sector has no problem collecting enough data and doing all the cross-correlations so that my upper-30s children receive advertising mail at the address where I’ve lived the last two years.
They’ve never lived here. My name hasn’t been on any of their bank accounts or credit cards since they finished college. Yet the computers match things up. And someone pays money for those generated mailing lists…
I’m already sick of Lightfoot’s loss being used as some sort of metric for anything other than how much we HATED her. The racists hate her, the homophobes hate her, the misogynists hate her, the queers hate her, progressives hate her, black people hate her. Across the board, everyone hates her.
If the race was between her and Vallas, she would win in a landslide. The only reasons she lost are 1. everyone hates her, 2. the liberal/left vote was split between like 4 people, and 3, EVERYONE HATES HER.
Vallas really only has the votes of racists, idiot white gay men, and the weirdos that vote for Willie Wilson. He’s pretty much capped where he is.
Actually, this is a topic that I’m incredibly well versed-on. The quality and interconnectivity of personal financial data is easily at least two decades in advance of criminal legal system data. In part that’s because there is a high profit margin in ensuring the data infrastructure of the prior and a profit margin in sharing data.
Criminal legal system data in the US is fragmented to a degree that is hard to comprehend for most people. I definitely didn’t have any sense of how bad it was prior to starting to work in the space. And that’s before we get to the low quality of the data input and the complexities of the system (including a lot of critical data that doesn’t necessarily get captured).
Even doing what @ptfe describes for a single state, county, or municipality is incredibly complex and that’s assuming that all the agencies involved are willing to share the data with each other, let alone an outside group to do the normalization and matching.
@ptfe: Ayup! Smells like
freedomlaw and order.
My dad co-signed on the loan for my first car (didn’t pay anything, just had to co-sign since I had no credit history at 18). Ever since the mail industry is convinced he still lives with me and keeps sending me junk mail for him
When the American people feel safe you can talk about reform. When they don’t feel safe their priority is feeling safe and bad laws get passed. The argument that fewer cops equals greater safety may be true or at least true-ish but it is so counterintuitive on its face that it’s a very steep hill to climb in terms of changing minds.
@Stormy Dragon: Several years ago we co-signed a loan for our young son and DiL. We went into the dealership on a Saturday, wearing the jeans and ratty tee shirts we normally wear on weekends. The salesman was notably standoffish and hesitant. He took our names and address and excused himself for a minute. After the finance lady did the credit check he came back into the cubicle all smiles with his hand stretched out, “MISTER ______!”. All eager and ready to talk turkey. A hole.
The only way for the people to be truly safe is for there to be more guns.
So, never. We’re stuck with a system that at best doesn’t work and at worse grinds people, particularly Black men, into dog food.
Karen in the burbs is NEVER going to feel safe so long as somewhere there is a black man or a queer person is out there doing whatever.
@gVOR08: Years ago I had a guy in my group whose Portuguese parents immigrated to California when they were young. The wife stayed at home and raised kids; the husband built a quite successful specialty steel company from the ground up. When the husband died, multiple checks of significant size began arriving monthly. The guy flew out to figure things out for his mom. During good years, the husband had been buying paid up annuities and when he died they started paying. The guy set things up so most of the money flowed through the bank to get to actual investments. He intentionally left a substantial balance in the bank though, because he said his mom loved walking in and having someone who would previously barely acknowledge she was there jump up, beaming, to say, “Mrs. Fertado! What can we do for you today?”
I think that’s leaning too hard into race and sexuality. If you live in a marginal neighborhood – and that could be a Black inner city or a trailer park full of White people or an apartment building in the Castro – there are people right there in your neighborhood that scare you. If you think you can call the cops and they’ll show up quickly, you feel better. If you’re confident that if the neighbor misbehaves he’ll be punished, ditto.
There’s real world experience – the bad neighbor – but there’s also the media narrative. If every time you open your laptop it’s showing video of a gang rip-off of a CVS or a story about a woman being beaten while she was running, that can certainly be interpreted in a racist way. Fear still earns clicks. If it bleeds it leads.
So, yes, it’s hard to foster a sense of security, and easy to shatter it. Particularly in a nation awash in guns. Guns = Murder = Fear = Cops and Prisons.
Having gone from dirt poor to well-off in a fairly short period of time I was darkly amused by this. White privilege is great, but nothing beats Green privilege.
Maybe you miss understand me. You said we can’t have reform until people feel safe. My argument is that we will never have reform simply because white people, in safe burbs and neighborhoods, will never feel safe simply because of the mere existence of Black men and queer people.
I live in one of the safest neighborhoods in chicago. Suburbanites look at me like I have 6 heads when I tell them I live on the Southside. White people
in my own neighborhood talk like we are under siege in Kiev. If the perception of safety is what is needed for reform, we will get neither safety nor reform.
Schumer could also just never schedule a vote, if he were so inclined. The House passes all sorts of crazy shit the Senate just never takes up.
I have no particular thoughts about penalties for carjacking, except a bit of surprise that it isn’t just armed robbery, and that both 24 years and 40 years seem like a very long time (ok, I guess I do have thoughts), but Democrats are only playing this game if they want to.
@Michael Reynolds: “The American People” (in aggregate) are probably never going to admit “feeling safe” (about most anything)–particularly in the turbulent and partisanly weaponized environment in which we live now. But having “the people” feel safe enough to embrace reform may well always have been a pipe dream. In the 80s, left leaning students Luddite was associating with at the U of W(ash) were terrified at the news that Reagan (bad enough without anything added) had named George Herbert Walker Bush as his running mate. His history as head of the CIA made it clear that Reagan intended to take the country into a bloody coup if he didn’t win reelection in 1984.
Yes, left-leaning students were as whackadoodle in the 80s as MAGAts are now. My point is merely that if we’re going to need consensus among “the American people” to have reforms, we’re not going to get any.
@Beth: Well, actually they’ll never SAY they feel safe because it’s not in their interests to, but both arguments are functionally the same.
The problem is the fear of crime has nothing to do with the actual crime rate:
Fear of victimization & violent crime rate since 1965
Surely the core issue is the circumstances in which use of the presidential veto is appropriate. IMHO, as a general principle, presidents should not substitute their opinions for those of Congress on policy matters. Vetoes should generally be reserved for bills that the president believes are unconstitutional or inconsistent with America’s international obligations; or impose requirements on the executive government that would be incapable of implementation.
In this case Biden seems to have been guilty of some clumsy internal dealings with Democrats in the House, but he is correct not to over-rule the will of the legislature.
Yes, how dare he substitute his opinion for the opinion Congress is substituting for those of the DC voters on policy matters! ;P
@Beth: @just nutha: @Stormy Dragon:
You’re all right. I wasn’t suggesting I had a solution, merely observing that gravity causes butts to sag over time. And Americans are irrationally afraid. Things are what they are. At least until hearts and minds are changed. I blame Hollywood (and publishing) for the glorification of rule-breaking cops etc… Easy trope but over time and with repetition it does a lot of harm. Creatives should be shifting the narrative, and I don’t mean to bad cops, but to good cops who work within the law.
I don’t know a way out of this with the media pushing a constant drumbeat of fear that seems to be very effective.
Back in my single days, I was dating a woman whose house was up in the hills and very private. She once told me that she had heard something out on the deck late one night, and was planning on getting a gun to defend herself – “If anyone is out there, I will shoot first and ask questions later.”At the time, we both lived in San Anselmo, litrally one of the safest places on the face of the earth.
I pointed out to her that she might well be blowing away a 15-year-old neighbor who had had a few beers and wanted to sneak a peak. In California, if you go outside your home and shoot someone who is not threatening you with imminent bodily harm, you are probably going to spend some time in jail.
Anyway, her plan got shelved. This was in the 90s, before the batshit crazy gun culture of the 21st century. She had a very good education & was a corporate VP. Certainly not a dummy. Just conditioned to be afraid.