Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) says he will vote for a Republican-sponsored resolution to block a Washington, D.C., crime law that would eliminate most mandatory minimum sentences, allow jury trials for misdemeanor offenses and reduce maximum sentences for crimes ranging from robberies to carjackings.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the bill but was overridden by a 12-1 vote from the D.C. Council.
Now, Manchin says he will vote for a resolution of disapproval that would block the implementation of the law, which passed the House with 31 Democratic votes in early February.
“I don’t support it. I mean, I want to put people away, I don’t want to let them out,” Manchin told CNN on Monday. “I haven’t been briefed on it, but what I know about it, I would vote to rescind it.”
Manchin also told reporters: “None of that makes sense to me.”
“I would rescind letting people out” of prison early for committing serious crimes, he added, arguing that criminal offenders “know what they can get by with all over the country.”
Republicans, who are in the minority in the upper chamber, can advance the disapproval resolution, which is sponsored by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), because it is privileged under Senate rules.
The discharge motion for the resolution doesn’t ripen until March 6, according to a senior Democratic aide, which means it won’t come to the floor before next week.
With Manchin’s support, the resolution has a good chance of passing the Senate, raising the prospect of a possible veto from President Biden.
Biden opposes rescinding the new D.C. crime law but he hasn’t yet said whether he plans to veto a repeal.
All 49 Senate Republicans support rescinding the law, which means the disapproval resolution would need the vote of Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) or another centrist Democrat to advance to Biden’s desk.
The measure got a wave of Democratic support in the House after Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) was attacked by a 26-year-old homeless man in the elevator of her D.C. apartment building.
“It turns out the congresswoman’s attacker had been arrested and convicted no fewer than 12 times before. Most recently for assaulting a Metropolitan Police officer! But there he was, this career criminal, just roaming the streets,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said in a recent floor speech.
“The good news is the Constitution actually gives the United States Congress final say over issues in our nation’s capital,” he said.
“And when the soft-on-crime local government has become this incompetent; when members of Congress can’t go about their daily lives without being attacked; when families cannot come to visit their own capital in safety; then it is high time the federal government provides some adult supervision,” he added.