No one should fool themselves that Congressional Republican interference in duly enacted legislation is out of genuine concern for the safety of District residents. This is their latest cynical attempt to score GOP points on the backs of people who pay federal taxes and serve in the military but, unlike their own constituents, can’t fight back because they don’t have a voice in the halls of Congress. Pretending that it is anything else is beyond insulting, especially given these same GOP members incited the violent assault on January 6 – in our backyard – before abandoning the DC police officers who saved them from their own mob.
DC’s law was the basis of countless public meetings over 16 years, three Council hearings, and two unanimous affirmative votes by a duly-elective legislative body. It is a futile exercise, but let’s pretend this coming House vote was on the merits of the law and not cynical politics. The hypocrisy is too much.
First, the very process to overhaul the criminal code followed the Model Penal Code. That’s a model that has been used by 29 other states, including many of those represented by the same GOP members who are challenging the District’s law. It is a best practice for maintaining a functional criminal code. However, Congress never raised a concern with the fact that some of their GOP colleague’s home states have approved lighter criminal penalties than what the District enacted under the Revised Criminal Code.
Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas, North Dakota, Ohio, Georgia, and Tennessee have lower maximum penalties for armed carjacking than the DC law the GOP members pretend to care about. Further, Alabama, Texas, Kentucky, Montana, Arkansas, Illinois, Utah, and Virginia have lower mandatory-minimums for first degree murder than DC’s duly-approved measure. When did Congress tell those state governments they were wrong?
A whopping 35 states have the same right to a jury when facing jail time that DC’s measure would provide DC residents. Where was Congress’ concern when Alabama, West Virginia, Arizona, or Texas (among many other) state governments passed their laws?
If Congressional Republicans wanted to make the District safer, they would do what people around the country have been asking them to do for years: take on the firearms crisis that has already claimed nearly 4,000 Americans so far this year. Or maybe, they could simply do their job and fill the vacancies on DC Superior Court so the people they purport to care about can get the justice they deserve.
The coming fight in Congress, starting next week, will represent a low mark in the 50-year history of DC home rule. Every elected official – and every resident – in the District of Columbia should fight this with all their might. Actions like this are a threat to the District’s autonomy and undermine democracy.