President Joe Biden said on Thursday he would sign a Republican-led bill that would overturn recent changes to Washington, D.C.’s laws which lowered penalties for some crimes, should it pass in the U.S. Senate.
“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 said on Twitter after a meeting with Senate Democrats. “If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did, I’ll sign it.”
A veto would run counter to Biden’s longtime view that Washington should be a state that sets its own laws, free from interference from Congress. But it might help counter accusations that his Democratic Party is soft on crime.
Opinion polls show the public is broadly opposed to “defunding the police” and other criminal-justice proposals floated in response to police brutality.
Congressional oversight of Washington, D.C. is written into the U.S. Constitution, and the city’s 700,000 residents do not have voting representation in Congress.
Tensions often flare between Republican lawmakers and the heavily Democratic city.
Washington’s city council has been facing criticism after lowering penalties for burglary, carjacking and other criminal activity. Police statistics show that crime in the city has broadly dropped since 2018, but a spike in carjacking and a recent assault on a member of Congress have heightened concerns about safety.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives rejected Washington’s changes to the criminal code in a bipartisan vote in February.
The Senate could vote on the measure next week.
Democratic senators are split on the proposal, with several saying they do not want to override local government even if they think the changes are a bad idea.