Hatch opposes crime bill, A5.White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said Monday it would be "a disgrace to the country" if opponents of the House-passed crime bill are able to block its passage through a filibuster in the Senate.
The bill cleared the House 235-195 in a rare Sunday session, after key Democrats and moderate Republicans bargained until dawn and 3 a.m. the two previous nights.It now goes to the Senate, where Democrats must find the same kind of help from moderate Republicans that rescued the $30.2 billion compromise in the House.
"I think the Senate is going to act to get this passed," Panetta said Monday, calling "the issue of crime the fundamental issue that most concerns Americans."
Panetta said on NBC that opponents "may try procedural blocks. They have the filibuster available to them. But I think it's going to be a disgrace to the country if the Senate at the last minute decides to filibuster a major crime bill."
"I hope that we won't have a bitter fight in the Senate," Attorney General Janet Reno said Monday on Fox TV. "I hope that we can come together in a true bipartisan effort to fashion a crime bill that is an American crime bill - not a Republican, not a Democratic crime bill."
Sen. Joseph R. Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said debate should begin Monday on the bill designed to help hire 100,000 new police officers; build new prisons; and, much to the consternation of the powerful National Rifle Association, ban military-style assault weapons.
With the outcome uncertain for hours, a crucial preliminary vote Sunday flashed the results of deals that cut $3.3 billion from the earlier bill, mostly from crime prevention programs.
Forty-two Republicans supported the motion to allow consideration by the full House, compared with 11 when a similar move failed 10 days ago. The Aug. 11 vote sent shocked Democratic leaders and Clinton into a tailspin, forcing them to negotiate with the GOP moderates - and causing a potentially devastating delay in the timetable for health-care reform legislation.
"In the past few days, we on our side have had to reach out to moderate Republicans. It was painful," said Rep. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime.
"Many of us had to give in ways we haven't had to give before. But it will produce a bill, and it is the way we should go in the future."
Democrats will have to go that way in the Senate. Majority Democrats have 56 senators, some of whom are likely to defect, while 60 are needed to hurdle procedural obstacles that Republicans threaten to erect.
GOP senators, like the Republicans who opposed the House compromise, believe the House-passed bill still spends far too much on prevention instead of punishment.
"This fight is far from over" in the Senate, Clinton said after the vote. He lauded the bipartisan House cooperation saying, "This is the way Washington should work, and I hope it works this way in the future."
The anti-crime legislation would be paid for with savings from reduction of the federal workforce.
Biden said Senate Republicans are "going to do everything they can to stop it, but it's going to be awfully hard to stop. Folks aren't crazy about gridlock."
Biden acknowledged, nevertheless, that he does not expect all Democrats to support the bill.
The House compromise was backed by 188 Democrats, 46 Republicans and one independent. Voting against it were 131 Republicans and 64 Democrats.
The assault weapons ban, which originally passed the Senate by a 56-43 vote, also could be troublesome as Biden searches the Senate for 60 votes.
The National Rifle Association, which failed to eliminate the language in the House bill, is ready to work even harder in the Senate.
The NRA's chief lobbyist, Tanya Metaksa, called the House bill "a defeat for the American people."
Vice President Al Gore, recovering from surgery on his Achilles' tendon, made telephone calls from his hospital bed to lobby lawmakers on the crime bill.
"The first thing he asked after surgery was, `What's going on with the crime bill?' " White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said Monday.
Gore, who hurt his leg Saturday playing basketball at the House gym with former congressional colleagues, was being released Monday from Bethesda Naval Hospital.