On the three-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, President Joe Biden vetoed a bill that would have blocked key policing reforms enacted in Washington, D.C., after Floyd was killed.
The district's city council passed a host of police reforms in 2020 as racial justice protests took hold nationwide over Floyd’s murder, the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and a raft of other incidents of police abuse.
But conservative lawmakers in Congress sought to use their federally authorized veto power over laws in the district to reverse the reforms in their push to usurp power from the largely-Black, voter-backed city council. As part of their efforts, Republicans maligned Washington as a crime-riddled hellscape that required historic federal intervention.
Biden signed a separate conservative-backed bill in March overturning reforms to the district's criminal code that were also approved by the city council. The move — a shameful one, in my view — marked the first time Congress has overturned a Washington bill in more than 30 years. By giving the first power grab his blessing, Biden effectively guaranteed more proposed legislation targeting the district's independence would reach his desk. Biden vowed in April to veto the resolution seeking to block Washington's police reforms.
Conservative meddling in Washington affairs fits a troubling, nationwide trend of Republican officials using their power to undermine the power and independence of Black officials and the largely Black communities they represent.
“I believe we have an obligation to make sure that all our people are safe and that public safety depends on public trust," Biden said in a statement Thursday. "It is a core policy of my Administration to provide law enforcement with the resources they need for effective, accountable community policing."
He added: “Congress should respect the District of Columbia’s right to pass measures that improve public safety and public trust. I continue to call on the Congress to pass commonsense police reform legislation.”
Eleanor Norton, Washington's delegate to the House of Representatives, noted that the veto made history:
In recent weeks, Republicans have embarrassed themselves with their attempts to slander Washington. For example, at a House hearing earlier this month, Rep. Jasmin Crockett, D-Texas, reminded Republicans that multiple members of their party — like former President Donald Trump and Rep. George Santos of New York — have come under criminal scrutiny and, in Trump’s case, been found civilly liable for sexual assault.
Biden’s veto on Thursday affirmed Crockett’s point, which is that conservatives in Congress are the last people who ought to be lecturing Washington on how to remain crime-free.