The Senate approved an amendment to an antiterrorism bill Tuesday to require that dynamite and other commercial explosive materials contain tagging agents that would aid investigators in tracing bombs.
But in a compromise to win the necessary Republican support, the Democratic sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, agreed that smokeless or black gunpowder would be exempted from the regulation. The move to include the gunpowder, which is popular with gun hobbyists, had been opposed by Republicans and by the National Rifle Association.
The amendment, which was approved by a vote of 90 to 0, also calls for further studies before lawmakers would decide whether to require the tagging agents, tiny particles known as taggants, in nitrate fertilizers like those used in the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Under Feinstein’s amendment, the Secretary of the Treasury would be required to conduct an 18-month study on the tagging of explosive materials. Within six months of completion of the study, the Treasury Department is to implement regulations for the addition of taggants to explosive materials, whether manufactured domestically or imported.
The vote on Feinstein’s amendment came at the end of a day that began with Republicans and Democrats mired in partisan bickering over an anti-terrorism bill that both sides want, differing only in particulars. The bill would give sweeping new powers to the federal government to combat international and domestic terrorism.
But the Republicans relented on the tagging regulation, and Democrats agreed to drop dozens of other amendments, after calls for quick action from the White House, Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the majority leader, and survivors and relatives of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.
The Democrats had offered 67 amendments and Dole had threatened to withdraw the legislation if prolonged debate delayed a vote on the whole measure beyond a deadline he had set for tonight.
Both sides said that they expected to meet that deadline.
The Clinton administration first proposed new laws focusing on international terrorists in response to the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. But in the days after the April 19 bombing in Oklahoma City, President Clinton asked for additional powers to fight domestic terrorism.
The White House proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion plan that included hiring 1,000 new federal law-enforcement officials and amending the privacy act to allow wider use of electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists. It also proposed a change in immigration laws to make it easier to deport aliens linked to terrorism, as well as the requirement that explosives contain taggants.
Dole and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, who had proposed separate anti-terrorist measures, also called for an expanded law after the Oklahoma City bombing, as part of a $1.8 billion Republican-drafted plan.
The proposed Republican bill includes major portions of Clinton’s recommendations.