The White House and a leaders of Congress said Monday they were willing to work together to pass President Clinton's crime bill but renewed their squabbling over who would have to compromise and just how much.
"The president was disappointed with this loss, but we are not going to walk away from this fight," pledged White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. "I think we'll pass a crime bill," said House Republican Whip Newt Gingrich of Georgia.Trying to shame lawmakers into passing his crime bill, President Clinton on Sunday urged Congress to set aside petty politics and strike at violence that "is eating the heart out of this country."
The White House rebounded from last week's surprise setback to the $33 billion bill with an aggressive weekend campaign to woo wayward lawmakers, capped Sunday by Clinton's emotional plea from the pulpit.
"So often it seems that petty political things or superficial divisions keep us from doing in our heart what we know is right," Clinton told 3,000 churchgoers at the Full Gospel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in suburban Washington.
The president continued his effort on behalf of the bill Monday, bringing relatives of crime victims to the Rose Garden to keep pressure on Congress.
Panetta, appearing Monday on NBC, said that, "over the weekend we urged the Republican leadership to meet with the Democratic leadership and talk with each other about what needs to be done to bring this crime bill back to the floor." But he said several key elements, "particularly the ban on assault weapons" are vital.
Gingrich, also appearing on NBC, said "I think the president ought to meet with Republicans leaders and see if we can craft a bipartisan compromise," but he reiterated his complaint that the bill contains "social pork."
"When people dial 911 they want a policeman, they don't want a social worker," Gingrich said.
Clinton, speaking to the mostly black congregation, said the prevention programs are designed to "offer a hand of hope," giving youngsters alternatives to violence through basketball, swimming and anti-drug programs.
Clinton's church speech, which interrupted his weekend stay at Camp David, was designed to court members of the Congressional Black Caucus who voted against the crime bill Thursday, forming an unusual alliance with gun control foes and Republicans.