IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Biden won’t veto Republican-backed bill blocking D.C. crime law changes

The president told Senate Democrats he will allow Congress to overrule the D.C. Council if the measure passes the Senate, as expected, as early as next week.
President Joe Biden talks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as Biden arrived to talk with Senate Democrats at the Capitol on March 2, 2023.
President Joe Biden talks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as Biden arrives to talk with Senate Democrats at the Capitol on Thursday.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden told Senate Democrats at a closed-door lunch meeting Thursday that he won't veto a measure designed to undo changes to Washington crime law, four sources with direct knowledge said.

The House voted last month to pass a resolution that would block revisions to the city’s criminal code recently approved by the D.C. Council. It is expected to also pass the Senate as early as next week, setting up a question for Biden about whether to sign or veto it.

The measure to overrule the D.C. Council has the support of Republicans and some Democrats. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has indicated he would support the measure. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said he would “probably support” it, as well, making it more likely to pass.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., confirmed Thursday after Biden's lunch with Senate Democrats that the president told members that “he would not veto the D.C. crime bill if it got the requisite number of votes” to pass Congress.

Biden also told Democrats he supports legislation by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and JD Vance, R-Ohio, to beef up railroad safety after the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Schumer said.

Biden addressed a host of issues at the lunch, Schumer said.

“He talked about getting insulin done for everybody, not just senior citizens, in the next year. He talked about the budget and doubled down — no hostage-taking, [Republicans] should just show us their budget. And keeping Medicaid — as important as keeping Medicare,” Schumer said. “And he talked about getting a real bill — an online protection tech bill — for kids.”

The White House opposes the House resolution to overturn the D.C. Council’s changes to the city’s criminal code, but it had previously stopped short of saying Biden would veto it if it was sent to his desk. A White House official confirmed Thursday that Biden will not veto it, and Biden tweeted that he will sign it, despite his support for Washington's autonomy.

"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," Biden wrote. "If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did — I’ll sign it."

Mayor Muriel Bowser opposed the changes passed by the D.C. Council, but her veto was overridden. Still, she has called on Congress not to meddle in the district's sovereignty.

The D.C. Council voted late last year to overhaul the city’s criminal code for the first time in 100 years, NBC Washington reported. The bill would have broadly changed how Washington approaches crime, including eliminating most mandatory minimum sentences and reducing mandatory maximum penalties, according to per NBC Washington. Bowser vetoed it in January, saying it would not make the nation’s capital safer.

The council overrode her veto, sending the bill to Congress, which has the power to review legislation passed by the city.