President Biden Signs Bills on D.C. Criminal Code, COVID-19 Origins


(MENAFN) President Biden signed two bills into law on Monday, one of which reverses an overhaul of the District of Columbia's criminal code, and the other requires declassification of information about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The disapproval of the D.C. Council bill to revise criminal penalties in the nation's capital received bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. Meanwhile, the bill to declassify information about the origins of the coronavirus, including any connection to a lab in Wuhan, China, passed both chambers unanimously.

The D.C. Council's measure sought to shorten maximum sentences for some crimes, such as carjacking, burglary, and robbery, while lengthening them for others. It also would have eliminated nearly all mandatory minimum sentences, except for first-degree murder. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, had vetoed the bill, but the council overrode her veto. Congress has oversight of the district under the Constitution and federal
law. However, supporters of the congress
ional disapproval resolution suggested that shortening any sentences while crimes like carjacking have been on the rise sends the wrong message.

Earlier in the day, President Biden issued the first veto of his presidency, rejecting a Republican-led measure regarding a Department of Labor rule for investment managers. The veto came after the president voiced his support for the Republican-introduced criminal code resolution, which took many Democrats by surprise. The president had previously issued a statement of administration policy saying he opposed the congress
ional disapproval resolution. However, in a tweet on March 2, he expressed his support for D.C. statehood and home-rule, but not for some of the changes D.C. Council put forward over the mayor's objections, such as lowering penalties for carjackings.

The vote in the Senate in early March was 81-14, after 31 House Democrats joined all House Republicans in passing the resolution. The president told Senate Democrats that he would not veto the Republican-backed resolution, should it reach his desk. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained in a press briefing that "the president wants to make sure that communities, even in D.C., Americans in D.C., feel safe."

In summary, President Biden signed bills on the D.C. criminal code and COVID-19 origins. The bill disapproving of the D.C. Council's criminal penalties overhaul received bipartisan support in Congress, while the bill requiring the declassification of COVID-19 origins information passed both chambers unanimously. The president had previously expressed his support for the Republican-introduced criminal code resolution, which took some House Democrats aback as the White House had previously stated its opposition. The president's support was based on his desire to ensure that communities, even in D.C., feel safe.

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