Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, said his party asked him "to walk the plank for the good of the country" on the crime bill - but he instead joined 58 Democrats who helped defeat it Thursday.
Utah's other House members voted as their parties expected, with Rep. Karen Shepherd, D-Utah, supporting the failed bill and Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, opposing it.Orton said he helped kill a rule to bring the bill to the House floor because it had no method to remove a ban on 19 types of semiautomatic weapons and billions of "pork-barrel" spending on social programs aiming to prevent crime.
Orton said he disagreed with Clinton, who charged Friday that members who voted against the bill did so to protect their political careers.
"Our party needs to recognize that it can't wait until the last minute on these bills when many members have concerns . . . and try to slam them through saying, `You've got to walk the plank for good of country.' "
Orton said several members of the Cabinet called to urge him to vote for the bill, but Utah mayors actually lobbied him harder for the bill because they wanted money from it. "About 14 of them called, and only one is a Democrat."
But Orton said he feels the majority of people in his district oppose the bill because of the billions it allocates to social programs - which he says the nation cannot afford - and the gun ban that the bill contains.
Hansen also disliked the gun ban, saying, "This bill was an attack on legal gun owners. It would not have taken the guns away from criminals - they will always have access to them on the street. It would have punished law-abiding citizens."
Hansen also complained the bill "spent more on social programs than prisons," including creating 30 new social programs and allowing spending millions on midnight basketball.
"Hug-a-thug spending is not what this country needs," Hansen said. "This bill was heavy on social spending and weak on crime. This wasn't a vote against crime-fighting legislation. It was a vote against pork, and I'm glad to see it defeated."
But Shepherd lamented the defeat saying it "combined hard-nosed punishment with forward-looking prevention programs." She said if it had passed, it would have authorized $146 million for Utah for crime fighting.