(The Center Square) – The liberal crime bill pushed by local Washington, D.C., leaders and killed by President Joe Biden has backfired, inviting fresh oversight and the clamping down of federal authority on the capital city at a time when local leaders are pushing for autonomy.
The crime bill would have lessened penalties for a range of crimes even as D.C. has experienced a spike in homicides, arson, and other crimes.
House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., announced an oversight hearing of Washington, D.C.’s local government, an unwelcome intrusion in the eyes of local leaders who are pushing for D.C. statehood.
Comer scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday and invited members of the D.C. Council, the Chief Financial Officer, and the head of the D.C. Police Union to testify.
“As the committee with jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, the Oversight Committee has a constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight of the policies that have plagued our capital city,” Comer said. “To examine the city’s increasingly radical legislative proposals, I have invited members … to testify at a hearing scheduled for March 29. I look forward to their cooperation and insight as we work to improve Washington, D.C. and hold its officials accountable.”
The “radical legislative proposals” in question most notably involve the city’s criminal penalties. As The Center Square previously reported, the D.C. city council criminal reforms would have reduced the maximum penalties for offenses like murders, armed robberies, armed home invasion burglaries, armed carjackings, unlawful gun possession, and some sexual assault offenses.
Those reforms, which were opposed by the city’s mayor and police chief, received bipartisan opposition in Congress and from President Joe Biden, killing the reforms.
The D.C. Home Rule charter allows Congress to overturn laws passed by the city’s local government, a power derived from Article I of the Constitution.
“Time to relieve DC government of its authority over our nation’s capital city, which belongs to Congress under Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote on Twitter. “That power shouldn’t be delegated to a third party, especially to people bent on encouraging lawlessness.”
Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee weighed in on the issue at a recent news conference, calling for keeping “bad guys with guns in jail.”
“What we got to do, if we really want to see homicides go down, is keep bad guys with guns in jail,” Contee said. “Because when they’re in jail, they can’t be in communities shooting people. So when people talk about what we’re gonna do different, or what we should do different, what we need to do different, that’s the thing that we need to do different.”
Contee has the data on his side. Total crime is up 22% in D.C. so far this year.
Homicides are up 14%, sex abuse is up 111%, motor vehicle theft is up 104%, and arson is up 400%. Some other crimes have dropped slightly.
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., was recently robbed and injured in the elevator of her apartment building in Washington, D.C., and the man arrested had a lengthy criminal history.
Thefts are up as well. George Washington University made headlines this week for warning its students about wearing certain pricey jackets since they may be stolen.
Federal oversight of the city has been less active in years past but ramped up after the battle over this bill.
“Congress has sent a clear message to the D.C. Council: it’s time to make our nation’s capital safe again,” Comer said. “All Americans should feel safe in their capital city, but radical left-wing policies have led to a crime crisis, a declining educational system, and a diminishing tax base.”