Congressional Democrats are pushing legislation that would greatly expand “home rule” in D.C., untethering the city government from federal oversight of its criminal and legislative processes.
The House Oversight Committee advanced legislation Tuesday that would eliminate a congressional review period for legislation passed by the D.C. Council.
The legislation also would grant the District sole authority to prosecute crimes under city law and grant clemency for those crimes. As it stands, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia serves as both the local and federal prosecutor.
“The committee’s passage of the District of Columbia Home Rule Expansion Act is an important step towards granting D.C. the autonomy it deserves, and to stop D.C. from being hamstrung by the federal government,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat and Oversight Committee chairwoman.
Allowing Republican lawmakers to second-guess local actions is a sore spot for the Democrat-controlled city, which says it should have the final say over its own affairs.
For years, city Democrats have tussled with national Republicans over local rules on matters like marijuana and school choice.
Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia led Republicans in opposition to the home-rule bill, saying the District went too far with COVID-19 restrictions and can’t handle rising crime.
“At a time of rising violent crime in the District, we should not be further eroding the law in D.C.,” Mr. Hice said.
City officials are seeking D.C. statehood as a way to shake off congressional oversight. But they’ve also pushed for more limited steps, such as greater autonomy or a voting seat in the House.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who serves as a non-voting House member, sponsored the new bill. She said it would be the greatest expansion of D.C. self-rule in nearly 50 years.
The legislation should receive support in the Democrat-controlled House but will run into a GOP filibuster in the Senate.
The House previously passed legislation that would give D.C. statehood or allow the mayor to activate the National Guard, the way governors do, but neither bill has gotten through the evenly divided Senate.