Joe Biden

Biden Says He Won't Veto Bill Overriding DC's Criminal Code Reform

The Senate is expected to vote on whether to overturn the D.C. Council's reforms next week

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President Joe Biden said Thursday he won't veto a measure that would block D.C. from enacting a controversial criminal code reform bill if it lands on his desk.

Biden first made the comments to Senate Democrats during a closed-door lunch meeting, sources told NBC News. Then, he confirmed his stance on Twitter.

"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," the tweet said. "If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did – I’ll sign it."

In February, the Republican-led House voted to overturn the sweeping re-write of D.C.'s criminal code, which the D.C. Council passed last year.

The Senate is poised to vote on the disapproval resolution next week, and some Senate Democrats have voiced support for the measure.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will vote with Senate Republicans to roll back the criminal code reform bill, a spokesperson for Manchin said Tuesday.

With Senate Democrats down by at least one vote and some moderate Democratic senators who say they're still undecided on the measure, Manchin's vote alongside the congressional chamber's 49 Republicans would give the GOP the majority needed to override the D.C. Council's bill.

If it survives, the sweeping rewrite of D.C.'s criminal code would eliminate most mandatory minimum sentences, reduce mandatory maximum penalties and allow jury trials for misdemeanors.

The District's criminal code hasn’t been overhauled in more than 100 years, and after 16 years of studies and proposals, the Council unanimously approved the new criminal code in November.

"We reject the oppression and paternalism of federal interference. We reject the complete disregard for our legislative process and our values," D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen said in a statement after news of Biden's remarks.

Allen said the revised criminal code is "badly needed legislation" and accused federal lawmakers of "manufacturing 'tough on crime' rhetoric" at the District's expense.

"Defending those without power matters, and past pledges of support for DC Statehood couldn’t ring more hollow," Allen said.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser opposed several elements of the reform bill, but the Council overrode her veto.

Bowser proposed legislation in February to change parts of the law she believes would hurt public safety and increase the burdens on the courts.

"We're experiencing more robberies and carjackings and people using guns, and I think the message of accountability for those crimes has to be abundantly clear," she said.

Police Chief Robert Contee has also voiced concerns about the reforms.

"Anytime you talk about reducing penalties, the consequence that is associated with crimes that are particularly impactful to community members, I think that that is just a non-starter," Contee said.

Bowser and the Council have said that Congress should not have a say in D.C.'s laws.

Stay with News4 for updates to this developing story.

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