House Republicans, with help from corporate Dems, vote against D.C. immigrant voting rights
Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., center, led the effort in the House to block local D.C. laws dealing with immigrant voting and criminal code revisions. | Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via AP

WASHINGTON—This past week, Republicans led by Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia passed resolutions aimed at overturning two progressive laws in the District of Columbia. The two laws include the recently-passed local voting rights act aimed at enfranchising 50,000 non-citizens, letting them cast ballots in municipal elections.

The other was a revision of the criminal code which would have updated century-old criminal penalties in the District after a long study by leaders in the city.

MAGA Republicans like Clyde have long sought to strip the District of Columbia of its self-governing power by threatening to pass a law ending Home Rule. Home Rule, while not full statehood, allows D.C. to have its own elected governing bodies, such as a mayor and city council, but leaves its laws must be approved by the sitting Congress.

Once a law is passed, there is a review period that Congress must act upon if they want to stop a D.C. bill from becoming law. And last week, under GOP leadership, the House of Representatives exercised that review power.

On Thursday, Feb. 9, by a vote of 260-162, the House voted to nullify the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022. There were 42 House Democrats who joined Republicans in their anti-immigrant move.

On the same day, by a vote of 250-172, the House nullified D.C.’s Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022. This time, 31 Democrats joined with Republicans in a “tough on crime” effort. The two votes marked the first time since 2015 that the House has advanced such review measures (and the second time in three decades).

Many local officials, including most of the city council, issued letters and press releases denouncing the House resolutions and demanding an end to the Congressional interference in D.C. affairs. President Joe Biden also spoke out publicly against the resolutions.

MAGA Republican Nick Langworthy of New York said the “D.C. Council has prioritized a bill to allow non-citizens, including illegal immigrants and foreign employees at embassies openly hostile to the United States to vote in local elections.”

Maryland’s Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin pushed back, saying, “They [Republicans] want us to become the Supercouncil for the District of Columbia and begin to micromanage the bills that are being passed locally by representatives of [700,000] people.”

Republicans and the handful of Congressional Democrats that joined them in their vote are not the only opponents of the revised criminal code which was unanimously passed by the D.C. City Council, however. Mayor Muriel Bowser had vetoed the code in response to a recent spike in carjackings and gun violence in the District, stating that she wanted some amendments to the bill. The council overrode her veto.

Bowser then decided to not lobby against the Republican resolution, seemingly taking sides with the anti-democratic and anti-Home Rule forces. The editorial board and columnists of the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post went on a week-long tirade against the revised criminal code, with very few opinions in support of the revision of criminal penalties, even though it would take a more progressive stance on the approach to public safety, especially in light of the recent brutal police killings and the 2020 uprisings against racist police violence.

The disapproval resolutions are now headed to the Senate, where they are expected to die due to the Democratic majority or at the very least be vetoed by Biden if they reach his desk.

In the meantime, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton continues to fight against Republicans like Clyde and works with the D.C. government and other Democrats in the Senate and the House to get a D.C. Statehood bill passed. If D.C. were to achieve full statehood, the problems related to Home Rule and Congressional interference in local laws would be bypassed.


Jamal Rich
Jamal Rich

Jamal Rich writes from Washington, D.C. where he is active with the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.