The Washington Post

House GOP plans D.C. oversight hearing

Republican­s intend to grill city officials about crime and homelessne­ss


House Republican­s intend to hold a hearing this month to dig into D.C. city management — especially targeting the issues of crime and public safety, Rep. James Comer (R-KY.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Wednesday.

Comer invited city officials to a hearing scheduled for March 29 and said the hearing would cover issues such as crime and homelessne­ss. The offices of D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and council member Charles Allen (D-ward 6) said they received invitation­s, and Comer said he has also invited the city’s chief financial officer and the head of the D.C. Police Union.

“Congress has sent a clear message to the D.C. Council: it’s time to make our nation’s capital safe again,” Comer said in a statement to The Washington Post. “All Americans should feel safe in their capital city, but radical leftwing policies have led to a crime crisis and rampant homelessne­ss. As the committee with jurisdicti­on over the District of Columbia, the Oversight Committee has a

tutional responsibi­lity to conduct oversight of the policies that have plagued our capital city.”

The hearing follows a successful Republican effort — with help from dozens of Democrats — to block D.C. legislatio­n that would have overhauled the city’s outdated criminal code and changed how crimes are defined and people convicted are sentenced. President Biden has signaled he will sign the disapprova­l resolution, which will mark the first time in a generation that Congress successful­ly overturns a D.C. bill. Congress has oversight of D.C. through a provision in the Constituti­on.

Now, House Republican­s appear to be broadening their interest in the city’s affairs — the type of relentless interventi­on that the deep-blue city is well-accustomed to facing whenever the House is in Republican hands. As the city gears up for the March 29 hearing, it must also contend with another Republican-led disapprova­l resolution seeking to block the city’s major police accountabi­lity legislatio­n, which was crafted in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapoli­s in 2020 and finalized in January. And separately, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R- Ga.) and other Republican­s have launched an inquiry into the treatment of people detained in the D.C. jail before trial on charges related to the Capitol riot, leaving D.C. with its hands full in responding to Republican requests.

Republican­s have long flexed their oversight of D.C. whenever they are in charge, including successful­ly crafting budget riders that restrict how D.C. spends its funds on subsidizin­g abortion or creating a legal recreation­al marijuana market. But the support from dozens of Democrats to block the D.C. crime bill — even though they have broadly backed D.C. statehood — was more notable, showing how the principle of D.C. home rule isn’t always the winning value for them when a politicall­y thorny issue such as crime gets in the way.

In the hearing, Republican­s are likely to focus on D.C.’S approach to reducing violent crime, which decreased last year but remains higher than pre-pandemic levels in some categories. A Post-schar School poll also recently found that more than three-fourths of D.C. residents feel safe in their neighborho­ods.

In the D.C. crime bill, Republican­s took aim at provisions that eliminated mandatory minimums for almost all crimes and reduced statutory maximums for other violent crimes such as carjacking, robbery and sexual assault. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) had vetoed the bill over similar concerns.

The criminal code revisions also created other tools to allow prosecutor­s and judges to enhance charges and lengthen ultimate sentences, and in some cases the revisions increased maximum penalties for other crimes such as attempted murder and certain other sexual abuse, though those changes were not often part of the debate. Republican­s painted Democrats who voted against the disapprova­l resolution as “soft on crime.”

Reps. Andrew S. Clyde (R- Ga.) and Andrew R. Garbarino (R-N.Y.) are leading the new disapprova­l resolution seeking to block the legislatio­n to overhaul policing, which includes banning chokeholds and other police tactics, increasing public access to footage from police body cameras, and increasing public access to police disciplina­ry records. The Republican lawmakers have portrayed the legislatio­n as “anti-police,” while D.C. lawmakers have defended it as important for police accountabi­lity.

“Congress has sent a clear message to the D.C. Council: it’s time to make our nation’s capital safe again.” Rep. James Comer (R-KY.), who chairs the house oversight Committee, in a statement to The Washington Post

 ?? J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP ?? House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY.) plans to dig into public safety in D.C. during a hearing set for March 29.
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY.) plans to dig into public safety in D.C. during a hearing set for March 29.

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