Congressional Republicans are pushing a resolution of disapproval to overturn a D.C. City Council criminal justice reform bill — which even Democratic D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had vetoed — that would substantially reduce penalties and sentencing for even many violent crimes. The resolution has already passed the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
A number of House Democrats are now “shocked” and infuriated after President Joe Biden said he would not veto the GOP resolution, as he had initially been anticipated to do, but rather will sign it into law if it reaches his desk, the Washington Examiner reported.
Many House Democrats had earlier voted against the Republican resolution based on the presumption, supported by a White House statement in February, that Biden would reject the measure with a veto and allow the D.C. crime bill to go into effect — only for him to now flip and promise to do the opposite.
Biden will sign GOP resolution, not veto it
Axios reported on Thursday that President Biden, following a lunch meeting with Senate Democrats, made the unexpected announcement that he would support and sign into law the Republican resolution that would overrule the D.C. crime bill instead of vetoing it as initially promised.
Indeed, the Feb. 6 “statement of administration policy” expressed fervent opposition to two resolutions of disapproval against D.C. City Council bills, insisted that D.C. had a right to “full representation” in Congress and “self-governance,” and therefore supported efforts to grant statehood to the special district overseen by Congress that serves as the home of the nation’s capital.
Yet, in a tweet Thursday afternoon, Biden said, “I support D.C. Statehood and home-rule — but I don’t support some of the changes D.C. Council put forward over the Mayor’s objections — such as lowering penalties for carjackings. If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did — I’ll sign it.”
That seems likely to occur, perhaps as soon as next week, given that several Senate Democrats facing tough 2024 re-election prospects in purple or red states have already announced that they intend to vote alongside their Republican colleagues in support of the resolution, according to Axios.
House Dems feel they were “hung out to dry” by Biden
The sudden about-face from President Biden greatly angered some House Democrats, some rather explicitly so, who now feel as though they’ve been betrayed by the White House after previously voting against the resolution the president now says he will sign, according to The Hill.
One unnamed House Democrat who had voted against the resolution on the assumption that Biden would ultimately veto it told the outlet in a text message, “The White House f–ked this up royally.”
“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 anonymous lawmaker said. They added, “F–KING AMATEUR HOUR. HEADS SHOULD ROLL OVER AT THE WHITE HOUSE OVER THIS,” and further noted that many other Democrats were likewise “EXTREMELY pissed” about what had just happened.
The Hill noted that there were other House Democrats who also spoke out, albeit in a less explicit manner, to express how “shocked” they were at the “disappointing” reversal of the president, and how he had led them to believe that he would do one thing but now says he will do the exact opposite.
Press secretary unable to explain shift in stance
The stark shift in President Biden’s stance on the GOP resolution against the D.C. crime bill also caused problems for White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who was suddenly forced to spend a substantial portion of Thursday’s press briefing fending off a litany of questions about what the president had just said that afternoon.
She struggled to try to find a balance between Biden’s expressed support for D.C. statehood and self-governance as well as his apparent support for congressional intervention to overrule the controversial local criminal law reforms, and largely failed in that effort.
In the end, as one reporter bluntly noted, it is now exceedingly difficult for anyone to fully believe anything that the White House says if the president will just say the exact opposite thing at a later date with no real explanation for the changed position.