Crime is just the beginning as GOP seeks to rein in DC’s liberal government
Crime is just the beginning as GOP seeks to rein in DC’s liberal governmentCami Mondeaux
March 29, 03:30 AM March 29, 03:30 AM
“Taxation without representation.” Those words are displayed throughout Washington, D.C., on signs, T-shirts, and even license plates to protest the nation’s capital lacking statehood.
Now, nearly 50 years after achieving some measure of self-government, some lawmakers are eyeing restrictions on the district government’s power — possibly repealing the district’s local autonomy altogether.
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Although Washington is not a state nor part of one, the district is allowed to operate as an independent local government through the D.C. Home Rule Act, which was enacted in 1973 to give it some control over its own legislative affairs. The only caveat is that all laws are subject to congressional approval before being enacted, giving members of Congress outsize influence over the 68-square-mile jurisdiction.
“Nowhere in the constitution does it give the city of Washington, D.C., statehood. In fact, it says in a kind of a roundabout way, ‘No statehood for D.C.,’” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) told the Washington Examiner. “It’s going to always remain a district under federal control of Congress. Why? Because states have certain states’ rights that are recognized. The states created the federal government … and Washington, D.C., is the seat of the federal government.”
In fact, Clyde would argue for quite the opposite: “If there comes a time where maybe we should be giving back part of Washington, D.C., to Maryland, then so be it. We don’t need that much land to be the city of D.C.,” he said. “I’d be fine with that.”
Since being elected in 2021, Clyde has repeatedly focused on targeting Washington’s local governing authority granted through the Home Rule Act, seeking to rein in the district’s power. Clyde was behind the bipartisan effort to overturn the district’s revised criminal code that was passed by the D.C. Council late last year that sought to clarify the district’s crime laws and, in some cases, reduce the penalties for violent crimes such as carjackings and homicide.
That bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support earlier this month and was signed into law by President Joe Biden last week, marking the first time in 30 years that Congress has repealed a district law passed by the D.C. Council.
Building on that legislative success, Clyde is now turning to other district laws — this time, targeting a slew of local police reform policies passed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement in 2020. Several of those reforms focused on prohibiting the use of neck restraints, increasing access to body camera footage, and revising officer discipline procedures.
Clyde pushed back against the proposed policies, arguing it would harm morale among the Metropolitan Police Department and strain law enforcement capabilities in a city where crime rates are already on the rise.
“America [should not be] not defunding our police department, and this is — let’s call this a backdoor method of defunding the police department,” Clyde said. “It might not be financially, but it’s through morale. It’s a law enforcement officer going, ‘I don’t want to work there, not under those conditions. I’m not getting support from the elected leaders.’”
But targeting crime laws is just the beginning.
Clyde has long advocated reining in the district’s self-governance, vowing last year that he would introduce a bill to repeal the Home Rule Act altogether once Republicans took control of the House. Clyde said that is “absolutely” still his plan of attack — and he has a strong sense of support among GOP lawmakers.
“I have a lot of support for it,” he told the Washington Examiner. “I have a lot of Republican support. Folks have come up to me on the House floor and go, ‘Man, thank you for leading on that.’”
Although it’s likely a resolution repealing the Home Rule Act would make its way through the Republican majority in the House, it’s unclear whether it would stand a chance in the Democratic-led Senate. Even then, it’s unlikely to be signed by Biden, who has previously expressed support for district statehood.
However, Clyde is not ruling out his chances just yet, pointing to the bipartisan support his resolution to override the district criminal received. Thirty-one House Democrats joined Republicans in backing the measure, as well as 33 Democrats in the Senate voting in favor.
“I have a philosophy to do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do,” Clyde said. “When we do the right thing, everybody is better. It positively affects everybody. That’s why I invite the Democrats to join us. You know, the people gave [Republicans] the [House] majority to do what we think is right. And we’re doing what we think is right, and, as you saw, a bunch of Democrats have joined us because they agree.”
Meanwhile, local lawmakers in Washington have pushed back against legislation to shrink their legislative authority, denouncing those efforts as a way to use Washington to score political points ahead of a crucial election cycle.
“We have a very divisive national political discourse right now … where the Republicans and the Democrats on the national stage try to score points against one another,” Washington Attorney General Brian Schwalb told the Washington Examiner earlier this month. “This is not about public safety in the District of Columbia. This is about using the District of Columbia as a pawn in a national political game.”
Rep. Eleanor Norton (D), who represents Washington, D.C., in the House as a nonvoting member, has repeatedly introduced legislation to expand the district’s power and free itself from congressional oversight.
“D.C. should, and will, be a state,” Norton said last year after introducing the District of Columbia Home Rule Expansion Act. “However, until Congress grants D.C. statehood, which is closer than ever, there is no constitutional or policy reason Congress should not expand D.C.’s authority to govern its local affairs.”
Clyde’s comments come just before a slate of district lawmakers are scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday about their local crime laws and police reform. The hearing is expected to be the first of several as House Republicans seek to crack down on the district’s affairs.
“We will be keeping an eye on what the city of Washington, D.C., does,” Clyde said. “And you will be seeing that some of the things they have passed in the past need to be corrected.”