Republicans are gearing up for the next frontier of their fight against the District of Columbia, setting their sights on tanking a policing bill just weeks after they successfully pressured President Biden and Democrats to help nix an update to the city’s criminal code.
Attacking crime and policing practices in the capital city serves a dual purpose for Republicans in Congress, allowing them to hammer a message of rising crime that served them well in the midterms and squeeze moderate Democrats with votes on a hot-button issue.
A pair of House Republicans — Reps. Andrew Clyde (Ga.) and Andrew Garbarino (N.Y.) — introduced a resolution of disapproval for a package of police accountability measures put in place in the District following the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
And the House Oversight and Reform Committee is set to hold a hearing on crime and public safety in the District on Wednesday, where members will likely touch on Clyde and Garbarino’s resolution.
“The D.C. Council basically is reimagining the police department, and I’m not okay with that,” Clyde told The Hill in a brief interview. “This is about the safety of the people of Washington, D.C. I think everybody should be able to come here, whether they’re from my district or anyone else’s district or from the entire nation, and feel safe, not get carjacked, not get mugged, not be assaulted, and enjoy their capital and safety.”
Much of what is in the policing bill passed by the DC council in December has been on the books since 2020 when it was greenlighted as temporary emergency legislation.
Among other things, the bill limits police searches based on receiving consent rather than a warrant, curbs use of non-lethal weapons when trying to quell riots and adds civilians to disciplinary review boards. It also would also cement a requirement for video taken from body cameras to be released publicly when police shoot individuals.
Clyde is confident the resolution will receive a floor vote, but when that will happen is unclear.
“House Republicans are committed to regular order, which starts with holding hearings,” a GOP leadership aide said. “It’s clear that the D.C. city council has gone extreme. Even some Democrats have acknowledged by voting in support of previous House Republican bills that dealt with radical legislation passed by the D.C. city council.”
The resolution comes after Congress passed, and Biden signed, a resolution blocking a D.C. crime bill that would have lowered sentences for violent crimes, including carjackings and robberies, and would have increased jury trials for misdemeanor offenses.
The GOP celebrated it as a win. More than 30 Democrats joined Republicans in the Senate to pass the resolution after Biden reversed himself and vowed to sign it. At the same time, House Republicans were able to go after swing district Democrats who voted against the measure.
D.C. Democrats are trying to avoid a repeat.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) wrote a letter to House and Senate leadership on March 17 opposing the effort. That united front is in contrast to their scattershot messaging on the crime bill that did them no favors.
Multiple Democrats told The Hill they worry the crime bill vote could be a slippery slope that leads to more congressional input for the District, despite the vast Democratic support for D.C. statehood and “Home Rule.”
“I really worried that the last vote would open the door to more politics from House MAGA Republicans, and now it looks like we may be seeing that,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill, adding that he’s been following the police bill movements closely. “We have to work really hard to make [the crime bill vote] a one-off.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who voted alongside Van Hollen against the resolution, added that a number of his Democratic colleagues have had second thoughts on how they voted on the crime bill and believes that could be a good thing for the looming sequel.
“I think when you start to look at the merits of the proposals, we become the City Council rather than the Congress of the United States,” Cardin said.
A White House spokesperson told The Washington Post recently the administration is “currently reviewing the legislation” and maintained that Biden’s support for statehood and home rule “extends back decades.”
But fresh off of the success surrounding the crime bill, the GOP is also sensing a political opportunity as they attempt to nix what they consider an “anti-police” proposal and try to keep the pedal to the metal on crime-related issues.
“I think the crime issue is a wake-up call to the Democrats,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of GOP leadership. “And I think it’s more symbolic on what’s going on in the nation’s capital. I mean, we do work here, live here, at least part time, so it impacts our lives.”
“I don’t think this needs to be a repetitive theme, however. I still think D.C. has the right to run the city,” Capito said. “But obviously the president and a lot of Democrats agreed the previous move was a bridge too far.”
Mychael Schnell contributed.