While Pennsylvania Democrats like Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan who claim to support District of Columbia statehood voted to override the District’s right to pass its own laws, Sen. John Fetterman says he wouldn’t have been one of them.
When the U.S. Senate voted 81-14 Wednesday for a GOP measure blocking new criminal justice laws passed by D.C.’s city council from becoming law, Fetterman was still at Walter Reed hospital receiving treatment. But his spokesman, Joe Calvello said the Pennsylvania progressive would have sided with the minority.
“This has been mishandled at every turn—from the White House blindsiding House Dems with a bait and switch to the D.C. Council trying some last minute hijinks to pump the [brakes] on everything,” Calvello told the HuffPost. “And if Republicans are finally ready to address crime instead of blow hot air, then John is ready to work with them. John supports D.C. statehood and self-governance. If he were here, he would vote accordingly.”
That puts Fetterman at odds with Casey, as well as President Joe Biden, who has pledged to sign the GOP resolution.
All 14 “no” votes were cast by Democrats. (One Democrat, Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, voted “present.”)
One of those “no” votes was Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) who accused senators who voted to stop D.C. from passing its own legislation of being “patronizing and paternalistic.”
“I have never seen something like this in my ten years,” Booker said.
Under the Home Rule Act, all District laws must be transmitted to Congress for a layover period during which, if a majority of each house of Congress votes to do so, and the president signs the measure, the bill in question will be overturned. That hasn’t happened since 1991.
Protesters gathered outside the Capitol to express their anger as the vote approached. “Keep your hands off D.C.,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said. “You either support D.C. home rule or you don’t. There are no exceptions. And there is no middle ground on D.C.’s right to self-government.”
Biden, who originally criticized Republicans for proposing legislation overriding District government, reversed his position and announced he will sign the GOP resolution. And he claimed to support self-government for D.C.
“I support D.C. statehood and home-rule – but I don’t support some of the changes D.C. Council put forward over the Mayor’s objections – such as lowering penalties for carjackings,” Biden tweeted. “If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did – I’ll sign it.”
Republicans said it was a sign Democrats know they have a crime problem.
“Led by the president, the Democrats are in full retreat on the D.C. criminal law issue,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called out her fellow Democrats for betraying the people of the District.
“We should be supporting the autonomy of the citizens of D.C.,” Warren said. And she denounced the vote as “a way of just showing who has power around here and that Congress can stomp on” D.C. residents.
Patrice Snow, a spokesperson for the advocacy organization D.C. Vote, also denounced Democrats who voted for the GOP proposal. “President Biden gave this beautiful speech in September about our democracy and [the] future of our democracy, yet he’s not heeding his own words,” Snow said. “We should be able — as majority Black and Brown city, to determine our own destiny, good or bad. It’s very paternalistic.”
While progressives are angry at Democrats voting against District voters, federal law overriding local control is the party’s position on most issues. Congressional Democrats support federal election laws that would override Pennsylvania’s laws and ban states from having voter I.D. mandates.
And Democrats support a federal abortion law, overriding state restrictions that ban late-term abortions.