Exclusive-Biden would veto Republican bill blocking Washington, D.C., police reform -official

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Biden hosts a reception celebrating Greek Independence Day in Washington

By Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden will veto a Republican-backed bill to overturn police reforms in Washington, D.C., if it passes in Congress, a White House official said on Thursday.

"Congress should respect D.C.'s right to pass to pass measures that improve public safety and public trust," said the official, who was not authorized to be named.

"The president will veto this resolution if it reaches his desk."

The local law, passed by the District of Columbia council over the objections of the city's police union, is set to go into effect this May.

It includes provisions that match some police reform measures that Democrats have unsuccessfully tried to pass nationwide in Congress since the killing of George Floyd, the Black man who died under the knee of a Minneapolis officer in May 2020. Some Republicans say the Washington, D.C., law is hostile towards the police.

The official said that, "while he does not support every provision in the D.C. policing bill," Biden also does not support congressional Republicans overturning "common sense police reforms" like a "chokehold" ban, limits on the use of deadly force, releasing footage from cameras worn by officers and new officer training.

Biden took heat from within his own party for signing a Republican-led bill last week that blocked a D.C. law lowering penalties for some crimes.

At the time, the administration said that Biden stood by his view that Washington, D.C., should be a state that sets its own laws, free from interference from Congress, but that he was opposed to some of the provisions in the bill like lowering penalties for carjackings.

Congressional oversight of Washington, D.C., is written into the U.S. Constitution, and the city's 700,000 residents do not have voting representation in Congress.

Tensions often flare between Republican lawmakers and the heavily Democratic city, including over policing, criminal code and voting reforms just this year.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, editing by Deepa Babington)