Facebook Twitter

GOP REFUSES TO RELENT ON CRIME BILL

SHARE GOP REFUSES TO RELENT ON CRIME BILL

Democrats continued Thursday to woo moderate Republicans in an attempt to break an impasse on the crime bill. But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, predicted the GOP would hold firm to either change it - or kill it.

"I can't imagine any Republicans pulling off at this point. It would cause real animosity," said Hatch, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee and Republican manager for the crime bill.Republicans have threatened a parliamentary maneuver that would kill the current compromise bill unless Democrats could come up with a three-fifths majority, or 60 of 100 votes.

However, 41 Republicans - just enough - have pledged to support that move unless Democrats meet GOP demands to allow votes on 10 GOP amendments to the bill.

Of course that could force it back to the House - where the bill barely survived this week, thanks to marathon negotiations that produced thin majority support.

"I think they (Democrats) allowed debate to go overnight again so they could call some moderates and ask, `What does it take?' " Hatch said.

Press reports said Sens. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., and John Chaffee, R-R.I., were wavering. But Hatch said the GOP also had a real shot of picking up votes of an additional one to four Democrats.

"The most popular politician in Alabama right now is (Sen.) Richard Shelby (D-Ala.) because he is voting with the GOP," Hatch said about the only Democrat who has announced he will vote with Republicans.

Hatch said he hopes that means others may follow - "especially (Sen. Howell) Heflin (D-Ala.)." He added that Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., is under extreme pressure from people in his state opposed to a ban on semiautomatic weapons, who want him to fight the bill.

Hatch said he figures Democrats will either pull the crime bill off the floor and blame Republicans for killing it or make a counter proposal for minor changes "that would be enough for moderates to say we should go along with them."

Hatch noted Senate Republicans are not proposing to cut the ban on 19 types of semiautomatic weapons out of the bill - which helps hold support from moderates, and counters Democratic charges that opposition is being orchestrated by the National Rifle Association.

"It shows that is a red herring," Hatch said, adding that efforts to cut an additional $5 billion worth of "pork-barrel" spending on prevention and social programs are more important.

"This is about how government has become an all-embracive, gravy-sucking hog - and we're going to try to put it on a diet," he said.