February 14, 1995 in Nation/World

House Debates Changes In Crime Legislation Gop Might Gut Clinton’s Pledge Of 100,000 New Police Officers

Katharine Q. Seelye New York Times

The House on Monday took up the final piece in the Republican overhaul of last year’s crime bill, debating a measure that would gut President Clinton’s pledge to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets.

The president said Saturday he would veto any bill that erodes that pledge, and Democratic House members said Monday they have enough votes to sustain a veto.

But it may not be as simple as that.

House Republicans have separated their anti-crime package into six different bills, but the Senate may consolidate them before sending the legislation to the president. And Clinton might find it difficult to veto a consolidated package if its components had been passed with strong bipartisan support.

Tony Blankley, spokesman for House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said Monday the Democrats apparently “have divined some very scant political morsel out of their stand, but they couldn’t have a meal of it.”

He added, “We will be testing whether he wants to veto a tough anti-crime bill or not.”

Financing for the additional officers was the centerpiece of last year’s $30 billion anti-crime package, which was one of the most visible of Clinton’s 1992 campaign promises to become law.

Last year’s bill set aside $8.8 billion over five years for 100,000 new officers, 17,000 of whom have been hired in about 8,000 communities across the country at a cost of $1.3 billion, the Justice Department says. The bill also set aside $4 billion for crimeprevention programs.

The Republicans propose to collapse both of those allocations into a single unrestricted lump-sum payment, or block grant, of $10 billion over five years for local governments, which could use the money to “reduce crime.” The size of a grant would be determined by an area’s rate of violent crime.

A vote on the measure could come as early as today.

Republicans argue that block grants allow local governments to decide how best to spend the money - a fundamental concept of government that the new Republican majority has been advocating.

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