Durbin Statement On Bill To Revise And Strengthen The D.C. Criminal Code

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and lead sponsor of the landmark First Step Act, today released the following statement after voting against H.J.Res.26, a joint resolution disapproving the action of the District of Columbia Council in approving the Revised Criminal Code Act (RCCA) of 2022:

“Partisan opponents of D.C.’s revised criminal code have claimed that the bill is ‘soft on crime’ because it reduces maximum sentences for some violent offenses.  In reality, the RCCA sets penalties in proportion to the severity of the crime, and also establishes increased penalties for aggravating factors such as the presence of a firearm, property damage, or prior convictions.  This is a smart and balanced approach to sentencing that will make the District safer.

“Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for kids in America, which is an outrage.  In its revised criminal code, D.C. is trying to save the lives of our children by cracking down on gun crimes—an effort we should all salute.  

“I also think it unwise for Congress to preempt the local government of the District of Columbia.  I have long supported statehood for the District of Columbia, in order to give its residents equal representation in Congress and the authority to make decisions over local affairs without this type of congressional interference.  For all of these reasons, I voted against the joint resolution of disapproval.”  

The RCCA comprehensively revises D.C.’s criminal code, which had not been updated since its creation in 1901.  D.C.’s revised criminal code includes new gun offenses and new charges targeting particularly dangerous weapons such as ghost guns.  Those charges can be added on top of other charges, such as robbery or carjacking, which also include penalty enhancements for using a gun when a crime is committed. 

Under the D.C. Home Rule Act, the RCCA was transmitted to Congress for a review period of 60 days, after which it would take effect unless a resolution of disapproval is enacted during that period.