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Congress, again with Dem support, blocks D.C. from governing itself
Biden is expected to veto this disapproval measure, but the door is open to constant game-playing over D.C. residents' lives. Also: SCOTUS rejected a request to halt Illinois's AR-15 ban for now.
They did it again.
Although President Biden is expected to actually veto this disapproval resolution, the United States Congress for a second time this year voted to overturn D.C.’s elected representatives. They did so because they decided — based on their views and their voters, and, more accurately, based on Republican and law enforcement union fear-mongering that they’re concerned will affect their voters — that they know better.
Back in early March, 33 Democrats joined the Republicans in the Senate in joining the House in disapproving D.C.’s criminal code revisions. Biden signed that measure, blocking D.C.’s long-needed update to its code. That was the first time since 1991 that Congress had disapproved a D.C. law.
But, it opened the door.
Republicans learned that they could use this city — a city of nearly 700,000 people that’s larger than Boston, Las Vegas, and Detroit — to push Democrats around. And they quickly did so again, going after a police reform measure.
As Mark Joseph Stern highlighted after a House hearing in late March, the D.C. measure “bans chokeholds, limits the use of tear gas and deadly force, mandates the release of certain body camera footage, codifies a use-of-force review board, and increases de-escalation training.”
As Stern noted, the measure has actually been in effect — as an emergency measure — since 2020. “MPD, the District’s police department, has already adapted to the new rules.”
That didn’t stop Republicans. Biden said he would veto the disapproval resolution if it came to him, which likely dried up some Democratic support. Fourteen House Democrats joined the Republican majority to pass the disapproval resolution in April. After that, Sen. J.D. Vance — Ohio’s most embarrassing senator, by far, in my lifetime — brought the measure forward in the Senate.
Which led us to Tuesday. Had the Democrats stood together, the disapproval would have failed.1 Instead, eight Democrats (and independents caucusing with the Democrats) joined Vance and his Republican colleagues to say that D.C.’s modest attempt at police reforms were too much and that they — senators representing states elsewhere in the country — were the ones who should be deciding that.
The eight senators are:
Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada)
Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire)
Angus King (Maine) (Independent who caucuses with the Democrats)
Joe Manchin (West Virginia)
Jacky Rosen (Nevada)
Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire)
Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) (Independent who caucuses with the Democrats)
Jon Tester (Montana)
Yes, Biden is expected to veto the resolution. And, that’s well and all — and likely provided cover for vulnerable Democrats. Five of the senators — King, Manchin, Rosen, Sinema, and Tester — are up for re-election in 2024.
But two of these senators — Cortez Masto and Hassan — just won re-election in 2022, meaning they aren’t up for re-election until 2028, and Shaheen isn’t up for re-election until 2026.
Law Dork with Chris Geidner brings you independent, reader-supported legal and political journalism that seeks to hold government and other public officials accountable. Support this reporting by becoming a free or paid subscriber today.
Supreme Court won’t stop Illinois AR-15 ban for now
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a request to immediately halt enforcement of Illinois’s new assault weapons ban.
In an unsigned order, the court denied a request to issue an injunction to the laws banning AR-15 and associated magazine clips, as well as a similar ordinance in Naperville, Illinois, during an ongoing appeal. As is the norm with most shadow docket rulings, the court gave no explanation for its decision. No justices noted their dissent, but that does not mean that no justices voted for the injunction request, as justices need not reveal their vote in such matters.
The Illinois ban is being challenged in several cases currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which has set oral arguments in the appeal for June 29. The state law has also been challenged in state court. The Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in that case on Tuesday.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a similar shadow docket request coming out of New York earlier this year.
Challenges to both states’ laws, still on appeal, come in the aftermath of last term’s 6-3 Bruen decision significantly narrowing the range of permissible gun control laws under Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion for the court that the only permissible regulations are those “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
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D.C.’s attorney general, it should be noted, issued an opinion on Tuesday asserting that the 60-day congressional review period had already passed and so “any vote of the U.S. Senate disapproving the Act would have no legal impact on the validity of the Act under the Home Rule Act.” With a Biden veto, this question would be moot.