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Congressional committee votes to overturn a third DC law

GOP members of the House Oversight Committee questioned DC leaders Wednesday about how the District is being governed.

WASHINGTON — Some of D.C.'s top leaders faced tough questions from members of Congress Wednesday. The House Oversight Committee wants answers about how the District is being governed.

During the meeting, Republican members of the committee focused mainly on three areas: Crime, education and finances.

"D.C.’s officials have failed in their responsibility to keep safe its citizens and visitors and provide economic and educational opportunities for them, said Chairman James Comer (R-KY) in his opening statement. "Our committee must fulfill its responsibility to conduct oversight of the District of Columbia."

DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmember Charles Allen, D.C.'s Chief Financial Officer Glenn Lee and Greggory Pemberton, the head of D.C.'s Police Union were the four witnesses facing questions from members of the Committee. 

Following the hearing, the Committee voted 21-17 to strike down the DC Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2022. The measure was enacted after the George Floyd protests of 2020 and has been renewed as 'emergency' legislation each year since then.  

"We've already seen the effects of this bill," said the head of DC's Police Union, Detective Greggory Pemberton. "It's completely detrimental to the working conditions and the livelihoods of police officers and they will just continue to leave the department and it will be almost impossible for us to hire any new officers."

Essentially, Republicans on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee believe crime in D.C. is out of control and that the D.C. city council's policies are a major contributing factor.

Democrats, however, believe D.C.'s lack of statehood is holding the city back from being able to implement necessary changes and they ripped into their Republican colleagues arguing Congress shouldn't essentially be acting as a 535-member DC City Council. 

"This is a national problem. It does not correlate and the union can't provide any evidence that shows it correlates with the legislation," said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. "It is a national problem that right now people are not attracted to working in a police department."  

Republicans have already notched a victory by overturning D.C.'s Revised Criminal Code Act. President Joe Biden signed the resolution last week that prevents the act from going into effect. 

Chairman James Comer says it's time to address "the policies that have plagued our capital city." Comer is calling the hearing Overdue Oversight of the Capital City: Part I.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is being invited to a second hearing, scheduled for May 16. 

"We think there's a solution to this," Chairman Comer told WUSA9 following the hearing. "We want to work with the (DC) Council. This was a sincere hearing to try to deliver the message we want to work with you. If you continue to pass soft on crime legislation we're going to continue to work in a bipartisan way to overrule that." 

D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb spoke to WUSA9 prior to the hearing about Congressional efforts to manage DC's laws. 

"Too often our concerns that are addressed by people who live and work in the District of Columbia are disregarded by national politicians, who unfortunately I think are more concerned with their own political positions in their respective states than really working with us to make sure we are a safe and healthy community," Schwalb said. 

Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin is the top Democrat on the oversight committee.

"This hearing is just one more political distraction designed to placate the ultra-MAGA base and one more affront to self-government in local Washington," Raskin said. 

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