A sharply divided House passed on Thursday a watered-down bill
to combat terrorism and crime after two days of debate over the
balance between protecting public safety and preserving civil
But President Bill Clinton said the measure, stripped of key
proposals intended to crack down on domestic terrorism, was too
weak to be effective.
"If we're going to have a bill, we need a real bill," Clinton
said aboard Air Force One as he flew to Washington from Jerusalem,
where he pledged to help the Israelis fight terrorism. "I certainly
hope that when this bill gets to conference it will be made much
The House passed the bill 229-191 one day after a coalition of
conservative Republicans and pro-gun Democrats voted to remove key
provis ions, arguing that they would have given too much power to
federal law enforcement officials in the name of combating
The amended bill includes none of the expanded powers for
federal law enforcement agencies recommended by the House Judiciary
Committee after the Oklahoma City bombing, and it was endorsed
overwhelmingly by the Senate last June.
"What remains is a low-grade crime bill - cats and dogs from
the Judiciary Committee . . . that have nothing to do with fighting
terrorism," said Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the Judiciary
Committee's top Democrat.
One of the key provisions deleted would have permitted the
government to designate certain organizations as terrorist and
denied entrance visas to their representatives.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., urged approval of the bill
so that House-Senate negotiators could try to work out a compromise
with the anti-terrorism bill the Senate passed 91-8 in June.
Gingrich said he hoped the compromise could be reached by April 19,
the first anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah
Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
He said he hoped a provision could be restored to prevent U.S.
fund raising by terrorist organizations that would be identified by
the secretary of state and the attorney general, such as Hamas, the
militant Muslim group.
But Democrats said Thursday's House action dooms chances of
getting a strong anti-terrorism bill. "I frankly don't know now
whether we'll have an opportunity to pass a meaningful
anti-terrorism bill this year," said Senate Minority Leader Tom
Although most of the tougher anti-terrorism items were deleted
from the House bill, it still contains some major provisions to
fight crime and discourage terrorism, including:
Authority to deport aliens convicted of crimes in the United
A ban on the import of nuclear materials that could be used to
A requirement that identification markers, called "taggants,"
be included in plastic explosives made or imported into the United
Restitution to victims of federal crimes.
Authority for U.S. citizens to sue for damages foreign
countries designated as sponsors of terrorism. …