Declaring that the nation cannot afford to lose the war against terrorism, President Clinton criticized Congress on Saturday for denying federal authorities three “crucial weapons” they need to prevent another bombing like the one that destroyed the Oklahoma City federal building.
Using his weekly radio address to turn up the heat on GOP leaders, Clinton took strong issue with congressional opposition to what he described as indispensable measures contained in the broad counterterrorism proposal he sent to Congress in the wake of the worst terrorist attack ever to take place on U.S. soil.
One of them, a proposal to expand federal authority to use emergency wiretaps in terrorism cases, was defeated, 52-28, in the Senate on Friday.
The other proposals - one authorizing military involvement in terrorist cases involving biological or chemical weapons and the other requiring the use of traceable materials in chemicals that can be used to make explosives - have run into significant congressional opposition.
“I disagree with the position of some senators from both parties that three crucial weapons in the fight against terrorism should be stripped from the bill,” Clinton said. “The restrictive view taken by some people in Congress would handicap our ability to track terrorists down.”
Responding Saturday to Clinton’s criticism, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., noted that a number of Democrats had voted against the wiretap proposal.
The bill before the Senate, he added, is a “tough” measure that still includes “many of (Clinton’s) own proposals.”
While the GOP opposition reflects the concerns of civil libertarians, it also seems to be aimed at placating ultra-conservative groups and other interests affected by the legislation.