PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Republicans on Wednesday attacked freshman Congressman Seth Magaziner for voting to uphold a controversial revision of the criminal code in Washington, D.C., as Rhode Island’s two senators face a major vote on the issue.

Democrats have been divided over the measure, which would reduce penalties for crimes such as robberies and carjackings. The D.C. Council voted to push through the changes despite a veto by the city’s mayor, herself a Democrat.

But the Republican-controlled U.S. House voted 250-173 last month to overturn the new code — a power that Congress has under the Constitution due to the unique status of the nation’s capital.

All four Democrats who represent Southeast New England — Magaziner, David Cicilline, Jake Auchincloss and Bill Keating — joined many of their party colleagues by voting to let the new code take effect. But President Biden has since come out against the rewrite, and the Democratic-led Senate is expected to join the House in rejecting it late Wednesday.

House Democrats have grumbled that they’re being hung out to dry after voting to support D.C.’s autonomy, a position that Biden and other party leaders are now undermining.

On Wednesday, House Republicans rolled out a digital advertisement criticizing Magaziner and 14 others House Democrats over the vote. Last November, for the first time in decades, the GOP came close to winning the 2nd District seat that Magaziner now represents.

“Forget safe streets and neighborhoods — House Democrats remain more concerned with promoting policies that appease violent criminals,” North Carolina Congressman Richard Hudson, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement. “This is just a preview of how these extremist House Democrats will be held accountable for coddling criminals all cycle long.”

In a statement, Magaziner suggested that his vote was about letting D.C. make its own decisions, not reducing penalties for crimes.

“I believe that the people of Washington, D.C., have the right to govern themselves, just like any other citizens of the country,” he said.

As of midday Wednesday, it was still unclear whether Rhode Island’s two Democratic senators — Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse — would vote for or against the new criminal code this evening. Neither office has provided a direct answer when asked by 12 News.

In Massachusetts, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey’s office said he will vote to uphold the new D.C. code due to his longstanding support for home rule in the capital. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office has not responded to a question about her position yet. Both are Democrats.

Other local House Democrats echoed Magaziner in defending their votes to 12 News.

“D.C. elected officials, like local officials across the country, have the right to pass laws as they see fit without interference from Congress,” Cicilline said in a statement. “I’ve long supported D.C. Statehood, and if we believe D.C. should be a state, we should treat it like one. No state can have its local laws blocked by Congress like this – D.C. shouldn’t either.”

Auchincloss spokesperson Matt Corridoni said, “The congressman would have voted against the law if he were a D.C. city councilor. He’s not. He’s a Member of Congress who respects home rule.”

“Congressman Keating has long held that the nearly 700,000 residents of D.C. deserve the same right to self-governance as any other American and proudly opposed the GOP’s undemocratic meddling in the decisions made by D.C.’s elected officials,” said Keating spokesperson Chris Matthews.

“Like many of his colleagues, including D.C.’s own representative in Congress, Rep. Keating does not take positions on D.C. municipal matters,” he continued.

Update: Sens. Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse and Elizabeth Warren voted against the resolution and in favor of upholding the D.C. criminal code. They were among a small number of Democrats who opposed the resolution, which was approved in a bipartisan 81-14 landslide.

“We are voting no on this resolution because we want to be a unified delegation supporting DC’s right to statehood and to determine its own laws,” Reed and Whitehouse said in a joint statement. “We also believe that if Republicans care about crime, they should join us in actually voting for the billions in federal crime fighting dollars that will help keep our communities safe.”

Ted Nesi ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook