Disapproving the Action of the District of Columbia Council in Approving the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 9, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, I condemn H. Res. 26 in the strongest terms, which seeks to nullify the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022, enacted by the council of the District of Columbia (DC). This bill is nothing more than a naked power grab on the part of House Republicans to enforce the will of Congress on the duly elected local representatives of the District of Columbia. I approach the subject of home rule as a former local government official having served on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for 14 years, including five as chairman and as a former chairman of the Council of Governments. I know what it takes to manage public safety. I cannot imagine how a local government can function efficiently or effectively, if each of its public safety decisions requires Congressional approval. I have consistently supported autonomy for the District and would argue Congress' actions have actually had a deleterious effect on the District and its residents. D.C.'s lack of autonomy affects the entire National Capital Region, especially the thousands of my constituents who are civil servants and work in the District. I hope the irony of this situation is not lost on those who support the conservative principles of limited government and states' rights. Let me remind my colleagues of what my fellow Virginian, James Madison, said in the Federalist Papers, Number 43, with respect to the intent of the Congressional authority. In referring to the residents of this federal District, Madison said ``they will have had their voice in the election of the government which is to exercise authority over them; as a municipal legislature for local purposes.'' There is no more basic exercise of municipal authority than protecting public safety.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.J. Res. 26, a resolution disapproving the action of the District of Columbia Council in approving the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022.

This resolution is not only a brazen and misguided measure seeking to uphold decades of racially systemic policies of criminal injustice, it is an insulting attempt to trample on the rights and the will of the people in the District of Columbia.

By subjecting thousands of Black residents of Washington, D.C. to criminalization and incarceration, the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 was the first comprehensive revision of the D.C. code since the year 1901, something that should've been revised long before.

However, in contrast to the majority of other states, D.C. did not update its criminal statues throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

As a result of the antiquated laws, which had been in place for decades, the human rights and freedoms of Washingtonians has been compromised, resulting in D.C. having one of the highest imprisonment rates in the nation, whereby Black males account for more than 95% of those who are behind bars.

The 2022 revision was a necessary push forward, and for the Republicans within this congress to attempt to undo these revisions, shows a rejection of Home Rule.

The revisions helped to correct many of the faults that the District of Columbia continuously ran into with the district itself making the necessary corrections with the support of the public.

The D.C. Criminal Code Reform Commission was formed by the D.C. Council to revise the statutes to guarantee that the revisions of offenses and punishments are precise, consistent, reasonable, and constitutional.

The District of Columbia Public Defender Service, the District of Columbia Attorney General, legal professionals, and the general public were among the sources of input that the Commission consulted.

Members of Congress should not use their own policy judgment to replace that of the elected officials within D.C.

Prior to these revisions simple assault carried a sentence of less than six months in prison, while the threat of simple assault carried a 20-year sentence.

Possession of self-defense spray and possession of a fully automatic machine gun carried the same maximum penalty of one year.

Some offenses can be traced back to the District's Black Codes and Slave Codes and others that were introduced by segregationists from states outside D.C.

The almost 700,000 individuals who live in Washington, D.C., are capable of self-government and through the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022, proved themselves as such.

Congress is not judge, jury and executioner and should not overstep its place within Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C. has its sole right to govern its jurisdiction and citizens.