Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized President Biden’s handling of a GOP-led resolution that would overturn parts of a District of Columbia crime bill, decrying that he should have given Democrats “a heads up.”
“If he was going to do it I wish he would’ve told us first, because this was a hard vote for the House members,” Pelosi said at a University of Chicago event on Friday, after being asked whether she agreed with Biden on the bill. “And it’s a hard vote for the Senate members. And the mayor of District of Columbia even differed from the legislators who passed it, so it wasn’t that clear.”
“I’m a big supporter of statehood for the District of Columbia. I voted with the District of Columbia,” said Pelosi, who rarely strikes a critical tone with the president. “I understand why some people voted against. But if the president’s going to do it, hey, could you give us a heads up too in the House?”
Biden met with the Senate Democratic caucus on Thursday and revealed his intentions to not sign the resolution. This only sparked criticism from House Democrats, who claimed that they were blindsided by the news.
“The White House f—– this up royally,” one House Democrat told The Hill via text message, noting the White House had previously issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing the resolution and backing D.C., and that House Democratic leadership told lawmakers that Biden was prepared to veto the measure.
In total, 173 House Democrats voted against the resolution, but Biden’s decision scored Republicans a huge political win. Meanwhile, Democrats’ disapproval of it highlights the divisions within the party — as they attempt to combat attacks that they are too soft on crime.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended Biden’s decision and his communication on Friday, claiming he had informed House Democrats on Wednesday during their annual issues retreat in Baltimore, the day before the president announced he wouldn’t veto the measure.
Meanwhile, liberals are furious with Biden’s decision, which they see as a disregard for the city’s autonomy. Biden has voiced support for statehood, but many on the left see this move as working against the D.C. City Council’s governing abilities.
The crime bill would do away with most mandatory sentences, lower penalties for a number of violent offenses — including carjackings and robberies — and expand the requirement for jury trials in most misdemeanor cases.
The bill passed the city council unanimously in January. After Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) vetoed it, the city council overrode it 12-1.
The GOP-controlled House passed the legislation with 31 Democrats backing it. It is also likely to pass the Senate with bipartisan support in a vote as early as next week, despite the Democratic majority in the upper chamber.