What to Know in Washington: Republicans Open Anti-D.C. Playbook

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Republicans are increasingly turning to a popular conservative punching bag, the District of Columbia, in a gambit to raise the alarm of crime in America’s cities before the 2024 elections.

The GOP won control of the House last year in part by pledging to tackle crime. Four months in, they have yet to pass major crime legislation, but have moved political messaging rolling back recent changes in D.C. criminal sentencing rules that they believe will appeal to voters across party lines.

“What they saw with the criminal code bill was an opportunity to make that a national issue and put Democrats on the defensive,” said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), who supported the criminal code changes.

President Joe Biden and 33 Senate Democrats signed onto the measure) after Republicans were able to cast the city’s changes as politically unpalatable.

“Politicians respond to public opinion,” Comer said in a brief interview last month. Democrats “realized that this crime is a huge issue, especially in their districts, in the blue districts. So we need to have a tough-on-crime position here in the House of Representatives. Republicans do, and I think we’re going to see more Democrats support our crime policies moving forward.”

Photographer: Ting Shen/Bloomberg
Rep. James Comer (R-Tenn.) is chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, which oversees the District of Columbia.

The GOP’s increased focus on violent crime comes as the nation has grappled with an increase in murders since 2020, but also after more ambitious legislation on immigration and oversight of federal prosecutors has stalled. Zach Cohen has the story.


  • Biden at 11:15 a.m. IST meets with Irish President Michael Higgins in Dublin and participates in a tree planting ceremony. At 1 p.m., Biden meets with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland.
  • Biden attends a youth Gaelic sports demonstration at 1:40 p.m. IST, and at 3:45 p.m., he addresses the House of the Oireachtas.
  • At 7 p.m. IST, Biden attends a banquet dinner at Dublin Castle.
  • White House Press Secretary Karine Jean and NSC Senior Director for Europe Amanda Sloat gaggle with reporters at 9 a.m. IST.

Feinstein, Debt Limit Heat Up Before Congress Returns

Ailing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) won’t be back in Washington when the Senate returns from its recess and she asked Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to allow another caucus member to temporarily serve on the Judiciary Committee during her absence.

Schumer late Wednesday said he would grant the request, according to his spokesperson.

Feinstein’s absence since being diagnosed with shingles has eliminated the Democrats 11-10 majority on the panel and slowed consideration of judicial nominees.

Feinstein said her return to Washington “has been delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis.”

“I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel. In the meantime, I remain committed to the job and will continue to work from home in San Francisco,” her statement said. Read more.

Eric Lee/Bloomberg
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in September 2022.

Feinstein is facing calls to resign from fellow Democrats. On Wednesday, Rep. Ro Khanna, a fellow Californian, tweeted what many of his Democratic colleagues have long whispered. “It is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties,” Khanna wrote, calling on Feinstein to resign. “We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty.”

Shortly afterward, another Democratic representative, Dean Phillips (Minn.), responded to Khanna’s tweet, saying it was a “dereliction of duty” for both Feinstein to stay on and for those who agree to stay quiet.

The highly unusual challenge from Khanna against a senior colleague from his own state and party comes amid the race to replace Feinstein, who has announced that she will retire when her term ends next year.

Three members of the California delegation, Democrats Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, have already announced they will run for the seat in 2024. Read more.

House GOP Caucus Head Calls for Debt Bill Passage

The head of the largest House Republican caucus is calling for his conference to pass a bill to raise the debt limit by the end of the month, a contrast from other party leaders who are pressuring Biden to come to the table and negotiate before Republican go further, Emily Wilkins reports.

In a letter to colleges on the Republican Study Committee, Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) recapped the proposals the caucus put out on the debt limit and said the talks have been “invaluable.”

“But the time for discussion is coming to an end,” Hern said in the letter. “The time for action is now.”

The calls for quick action clash with other leaders in the chamber who are adamant Biden needs to negotiate with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) before Republicans move on.

“We can’t just continue to sit here negotiate with ourselves,” said Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) who has been appointed by McCarthy to help oversee debt limit talks. “The White House needs to come to the table.”

  • House GOP leaders have started putting together a debt-limit package that would lift the ceiling until May 2024 and are preparing to share it with other Republican lawmakers next week, Punchbowl reports. Republicans are weighing either a cap on non-defense discretionary spending or a cap on overall discretionary spending after reducing it to fiscal year 2022 levels. The proposal would also rescind unspent Covid-19 money and prohibit student loan forgiveness.

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With assistance from Emily Wilkins

To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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