by Las Vegas Review-Journal Editorial Board, March 9, 2023
Perhaps the rarest thing in politics is wide bipartisan agreement on a contentious political issue.
Just look at congressional inaction on immigration, entitlement reform, energy prices and deficit reduction.
Until recently, crime would have been on that list as well. But on Wednesday, a majority of Democratic senators joined with Republicans to overturn a crime bill passed by Washington, D.C., officials. Congress can overturn bills passed by the local D.C. Council. The Senate is almost an even split, but the vote was a blowout — passing 81 to 14. The House had previously voted to overturn it, but the margin was much closer.
In between those votes, President Joe Biden announced that he wouldn’t veto the bill. That was a flip-flop. His administration previously said it opposed the bill, citing his respect for the autonomy of local officials.
Some criminal justice reform efforts over recent years have been needed. But hard-left Democrats are hopelessly out of touch with their “defund the police” rhetoric and coddling of repeat offenders. Proposals like this go far beyond what is prudent. It appears Mr. Biden realized as much and switched his position.
It’s easy to understand why Democrats would have political worries about supporting this bill. It abolished mandatory minimum sentences from most crimes. That included carjacking, robbery and burglary. Videos of D.C. carjackings have gone viral in recent years. In a 2021 video, two teen girls ended up killing an Uber Eats driver and Pakistan immigrant as he hung on to the side of his car. D.C. officials didn’t get rid of the minimum sentence for first-degree murder. But they did reduce the maximum sentence from life in prison to 51 years.
Under the proposal, any convicted criminal could ask for resentencing after serving 20 years of their sentence if a judge approved. D.C. already has a version of this for criminals who committed their crime when they were under 25.
This proposal was so extreme that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, vetoed it. She won’t be mistaken for a conservative anytime soon. The D.C. Council then overrode her veto, setting up the congressional showdown.
Crime isn’t political popular, and politicians that allow it to fester tend not to last long in public office. Just look at Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s third-place finish in the recent mayoral race. New York City Mayor Eric Adams called her loss a “warning sign or the country.” He urged his fellow Democrats to pay attention on this issue, noting the obvious, “People want to be safe.”