Home rule

House Democrats push for bill to dramatically expand domestic rule in DC

Congressional Democrats are pushing legislation that would dramatically expand “home rule” in DC, untying the city’s government from federal oversight of its criminal and legislative processes.

The House Oversight Committee on Tuesday proposed legislation that would eliminate a congressional review period for legislation passed by the DC Council.

The legislation would also grant the district exclusive authority to prosecute crimes under city law and grant clemency for those crimes. As it stands, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia serves as both the local and federal prosecutor.

“The committee’s passage of the District of Columbia Autonomy Extension Act is an important step toward giving DC the autonomy it deserves and preventing DC from being crippled by the federal government,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and chair of the Oversight Committee.

Allowing Republican lawmakers to second guess local actions is a sore point for the Democratic-controlled city, which says it should have the final say on its own affairs.

For years, city Democrats have argued with national Republicans over local rules on issues like marijuana and school choice.

Representative Jody Hice of Georgia has led Republicans in opposing the autonomy bill, saying the district has gone too far with COVID-19 restrictions and can’t handle rising crime.

“At a time of increasing violent crime in the District, we should not be eroding the law in DC any further,” Mr. Hice said.

City officials are seeking DC statehood as a way to shake off congressional oversight. But they have also pushed for more limited measures, such as greater autonomy or a voting seat in the House.

DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who is a nonvoting House member, sponsored the new bill. She said it would be the biggest expansion of DC’s autonomy in nearly 50 years.

The bill is expected to receive support from the Democratic-controlled House, but will face GOP filibuster in the Senate.

The House previously passed legislation that would give DC statehood or allow the mayor to activate the National Guard, as governors do, but neither bill passed the equally divided Senate.

Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera