Bowser’s Hill Testimony Over D.C. Police Bill Was Civil

The corridor in front of the large Congressional hearing room on the first floor of the Longworth Office Building was packed by 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 16, with news cameras and their crews surrounding some two dozen protestors wearing red shirts emblazoned with the three stars of the District of Columbia and the words “Hands Off DC!”

The group said they were there to protest any actions taken by Congress to nullify laws legislated by the D.C. Council …. in this case, a recent policing act passed by the Council and opposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser. On Monday, she introduced a new legislative proposal to toughen up police procedures. On Tuesday, while she was at the House hearing, the Council was voting on the new $19.7-billion District budget proposal, including some policing initiatives.

At the hearing, none of the usual Code Pink protestors – a peace activist group well known in Washington, D.C. for loudly disrupting congressional committee hearings and heckling politicians mid-speech  — were in sight.

More than 100 public viewers and protestors were ushered into the the hearing room on a first-come-first-served basis. Dozens of photographers showed their knee flexibility crawling and squatting in front of the witness stand as Mayor Muriel Bowser, Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee, City Administrator Kevin Donahue and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves took their places at the testimony witness desk.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, James Comer (R-Ky.) and Ranking member Jeremy Raskin (D-Md.)  shuffled papers to begin their opening remarks on the congressional resolution to disapprove Washington, D.C.’s recent police reform, law which had been opposed by both Bowser and Contee. About a half-dozen reporters took up their pads and pencils at the press desk, ready for the battle of words.

But the battle didn’t happen. The four-hour hearing, all the press agreed (some reluctantly) was civil, even at times agreeable, particularly between Comer and Bowser. They agreed that crime was up in D.C. and that current policing law could discourage good officers from working in D.C and that was a concern for Congress since Washington, D.C., is the nation’s capital and host to citizens from all around the world. They agreed that the federal government should bring its workers back to the many properties it leased in order to bring back downtown D.C. Comer told Bowser that she could count on the committee’s support for that return-to-D.C. goal and the Washington Commanders’ return to RFK stadium.  

The Republican committee members spent most of their allotted time harshly criticizing Graves – who serves both as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and as D.C.’s local prosecutor. He was lambasted with data showing that his office had not prosecuted 67 percent of cases that would have been tried in D.C. Superior Court and that the average homicide suspect had been arrested 11 times before that chargeHe was accused of having “soft-on-crime” policies that have made the nation’s capital dangerous.

Many of the Democratic members in their turn implored that this was not the business of Congress and that D.C. must be given statehood in order to make its own laws, and to assure D.C. voters – some 85 percent of whom are registered Democrats – their votes were heard. It is an oft repeated argument made by Democrats in Congress.

“The hearing was less contentious than I expected,” said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting Congressional  representative, said. Comer’s offers to help “surprised but elated” her. “I’ll be following up on that,” Norton added.

At about 5 p.m., disapproval of D.C.’s police reform bill was passed in back-to-back sessions of the House and the Senate. But President Biden has said he would veto the legislation if it came to his desk.




One comment on “Bowser’s Hill Testimony Over D.C. Police Bill Was Civil”

  • Kerry S says:

    it was civil because any sane person (mayor) would conclude that the City Council is insane, trying to institute punishments for police officers at a time when we can’t even hold down enough officers to keep us marginally safe. Living in DC right now, it’s not safe and it’s not fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *