Cruz’s disapproval resolutions could block local laws passed by the D.C. Council — if the resolutions pass the Senate and House and are signed by President Obama, an unlikely scenario.
Cruz is hardly the only to plot quixotic attempts to overturn D.C. laws as a way to flex their muscles to their constituents back home. He’s joining a growing list of Republicans who have sought to interfere with local D.C. laws, chiefly liberal social policies. Under the Home Rule Charter, Congress has the power to block any D.C. law it pleases, although it often chooses to do so through the appropriations process.
Here’s a roundup of some of D.C.’s most recent meddlers in Congress.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz is the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a committee that oversees D.C. affairs. Chaffetz has long said he thinks D.C. autonomy is unconstitutional, so no one expected a particularly rosy relationship between him and the District. But in February, Chaffetz proved just how rocky that relationship may turn out to be.
About a day before marijuana legalization went into effect in the District, the Utah congressman sent a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) warning her not to go through with it, saying it would be a “knowing and willful violation of the law.” He went as far as saying Bowser could go to prison. Bowser went ahead with legalization anyway.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)
Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the subcommittee on government operations, co-signed the letter to Bowser with Chaffetz.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)
Last July, a little-known freshman congressman from Kentucky decided he wanted to gut D.C.’s strict gun laws through the appropriations process. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced an amendment to a financial services and general government appropriations bill stating that the District government is prohibited from spending any of its money on enforcing its own gun laws. Local officials would only be allowed to enforce federal gun laws, which are a lot more lax than those in D.C. Massieconceded that he introduced the legislation to show his constituents back home that he is a bonafide supporter of Second Amendment rights.
As Massie expected, the legislation failed, but, as he wanted, his move did garner headlines.
(Update: Massie’s office notes that he did not only introduce the amendment to show his constituents back home that he is a supporter of Second Amendment rights, but also because he believes the city’s gun laws were unconstitutional and wants to allow visitors and residents to D.C. the right of self-defense.)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
The Kentucky senator may have 2016 presidential ambitions, but in 2014 he also proved he has interest in local D.C. affairs. In 2014, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who leans libertarian and says he’s all about states’ rights, tacked on an amendment to the Senate’s bipartisan Sportsmen Act that would repeal D.C.’s gun registration restrictions and assault weapon ban, which includes many semi-automatic weapons. (That ultimately failed.) In 2012, Paul was more successful in introducing a number of gun-related amendments that helped to kill a bipartisan effort to grant D.C. greater budget autonomy.
But Paul says he’s all for D.C. having legal weed.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)
The Ohio congressman introduced a similar measure to Paul’s in the House.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.)
If there is such a distinction, then Rep. Andy Harris was probably the District’s biggest foe of 2014. Harris, a medical doctor and Maryland’s lone Republican representative in Congress, introduced an amendment last summer to a federal spending bill to gut D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law. D.C. residents weren’t happy and organized a fake constituent service day, in which residents crowded his office to complain about local issues like cracked sidewalks. The local activists told Harris that if he wants to represent D.C., he has to deal with local matters other than pot.
That amendment to quash decriminalization ultimately failed, but the language of it was later used as the basis for the rider in the massive December spending bill that attempted to kill D.C. marijuana legalization. This rider was somewhat successful; today, possession of marijuana is legal in D.C., but, thanks to that rider, it’s still illegal to sell or tax it.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Paul’s amendment would repeal D.C.’s ban on semi-automatic weapons. D.C. does not have a ban on semi-automatic weapons, but rather a ban on assault weapons, which includes many semi-automatic guns.