WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) today delivered remarks on the Senate floor imploring the Senate to pass and send to the President’s desk his resolution of disapproval to block the D.C. Council’s irresponsible Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 (RCCA) from taking effect.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
The Senate will soon take up my resolution to nullify the Revised Criminal Code Act recently passed by the D.C. Council—a measure that becomes more essential every day as the harrowing reports of lawlessness and deadly violence in our nation’s capital steadily accumulate.
Carjackings in D.C. have increased for five consecutive years and have more than tripled in the last three years. For the first time in 20 years, D.C. has experienced back-to-back years with more than 200 homicides.
Car thefts are up 111 percent this year. It’s gotten so bad that the city recently announced that it’s giving away free steering-wheel locks to owners of frequently stolen cars.
Instead, how about just enacting laws that stop crime in the first place?
Sadly, violent crime has become an epidemic in our nation’s capital, where our constituents, Americans from across the country, and people from around the world come to live, work, and visit—from schoolchildren to World War II veterans.
Yet, unbelievably, despite escalating crime and palpable unease from all who visit or live in D.C., the D.C. Council recently passed legislation to reduce penalties and eliminate minimum sentences for violent criminal offenses, including carjackings, robberies, and even homicides.
D.C.’s Crime Bill also dramatically expands jury trials in misdemeanor cases, which may sound good in a law school classroom, but — in practice — will overwhelm the system and force dropped charges and crippling delays in countless criminal cases integral to preserving order and public safety.
The D.C. Crime Bill reduces penalties on violent crime in the midst of a violent crime wave. It is the opposite of good policy and will make the crime wave worse.
It sends the wrong message that D.C. is not serious about fighting crime.
D.C.’s own police chief recently concluded that one of the main reasons for rising crime in the district—especially among youth—is the perception among criminals that they will suffer no consequence. Yet the Council proposes to reduce the consequences even further.
Make no mistake: this D.C. Crime Bill will deliver the wrong results. Under these soft-on-crime policies, public safety will deteriorate further.
This is common sense to most people.
It should be no surprise, then, that Mayor Bowser vetoed the D.C. Crime Bill in January. She said: “This bill does not make us safer.” I agree.
Yet, putting woke ideology over public safety, the D.C. Council overrode the Mayor’s veto.
That’s why I’m bringing forth this resolution to block the D.C. Crime Bill. Washington is a federal district, and the Constitution puts Congress in charge of governing it.
This makes sense. Countless Americans from all over the country visit our nation’s capital each week to meet with their federal representatives and enjoy our national history. Congress has a constitutional obligation to make sure these visitors can walk down the sidewalk or enjoy a meal without fear of becoming crime victims.
This resolution passed with significant bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, and I’m confident that an even-larger bipartisan majority of this body will support it. Numerous law enforcement groups, including the D.C. Police Union, are supportive. Polling shows that 72 percent of D.C. residents believe that the D.C. Crime Bill sends the wrong message.
A few weeks ago, the White House put out a statement of policy opposing my resolution—based on the President’s support for D.C. statehood. But, last week, the President indicated he would in fact sign my resolution. I’m glad the President has recognized that Congress has a legitimate, constitutional role in reviewing and rejecting harmful D.C. legislation.
To this point—given the now-widespread recognition that this is a bad bill, imagine if Congress did not have the authority under the Constitution and D.C. Home Rule Act to block D.C. laws—this dangerous bill would become law!
Apparently seeing the writing on the wall, this week, the Chairman of the D.C. Council cooked up a desperate and legally baseless ploy to “un-submit” the bill to Congress in an attempt to avoid a vote of disapproval. But, the D.C. Home Rule Act is clear that this is not a valid action.
No matter how hard they try, the Council cannot avoid accountability for passing this disastrous, dangerous, soft-on-crime bill.
Violent crime has become an epidemic in America. This resolution is a referendum on it.
Do you want to decrease jail time for violent criminals?
Do you want to prioritize the interests of law-abiding citizens, or the interests of criminals?
This will be one of the only opportunities during this Congress for this body to send a broad message on violent crime, a message that may impact the safety and security of Americans throughout our nation.
I appreciate that many of my colleagues have co-sponsored or indicated their support for this resolution and urge all of my colleagues to support it.
Stopping violent crime should not be a Republican or Democrat objective; it should be a common-sense one.
I hope that the Senate sends that message today by adopting this resolution and by sending it to the President’s desk.
Thank you, Mr. President.