Crime Takes Center Stage House Facing Clinton Veto If Bill Revamped

Article excerpt

The GOP's Contract with America, which has been rolling through the House with the momentum of an 18-wheeler, hit its first serious pothole Monday as Democrats closed ranks behind President Bill Clinton's threat to cast his first veto in defense of a program to hire thousands of new police officers.

At issue as the House began debate Monday on the last of six separate anti-crime bills was the fate of $13 billion in grants that last year's omnibus crime bill made available to finance crime-prevention programs and to fulfill Clinton's campaign promise to put 100,000 new police on the nation's streets.

Almost finished with their massive rewrite of the 1994 bill, House Republicans sought to dismantle police and prevention programs that constituted the centerpiece of Clinton's bill and replace them with a smaller $10.5 billion block grant that state and municipal governments could spend on the anti-crime measures of their choice.

Clinton warned Congress in his radio address Saturday against playing "partisan politics with police." He said he would use his first veto to stop "any effort to repeal or undermine the 100,000 police commitment. Period."

Attorney General Janet Reno, wearing a badge saying "100,000 Cops: Don't Go Back," was on Capitol Hill to rally opposition to the bill Monday. She spent the morning lobbying legislators of both parties. …