WASHINGTON -- Senate Democratic leaders could begin debate today on a new version of the Clinton crime bill, which would double the funding for community policing, prisons and boot camps for non-violent offenders.
The beefed-up $9.5 billion legislation is intended to break years of stalemate between the administration and Congress to address public concern about rising crime rates across the country. But both Democrats and Republicans are already attacking the White House proposal.
Republican critics say the bill places too much emphasis on prisoner rehabilitation and not enough on punishment. Some Democrats say that even in its new, expanded form, the bill will not provide enough new police. The crime bill is scheduled to come up for discussion soon.
Meanwhile, President Clinton yesterday tried to push along the stalled Brady gun-control bill by meeting with James Brady, the former White House press secretary who was wounded in the shooting of President Reagan in 1981.
Before meeting with Mr. Brady and his wife, Sarah, Mr. Clinton told reporters that Congress could no longer justify "continued inaction on what millions of Americans believe is the No. 1 problem in their lives."
"The Brady bill is the first step. And we are going to pass it this year, I believe, because the American people have finally heard the long call of Jim and Sarah Brady," Mr. Clinton said.
Until recently, the Brady bill was twinned with the crime bill. But House Democrats split the two bills in an effort to make passage of non-controversial items in the crime package easier. In the Senate, the Brady bill is scheduled to be considered after the crime bill.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., introduced a substitute crime bill late Monday that would expand the earlier package unveiled in August. The new version increases the amount spent on community policing from $3.4 billion to $5.2 billion. The funds will go to hire 60,000 new officers over five years.
The proposal also increases the amount spent on military-style boot camps for non-violent offenders and prisons for violent offenders from $300,000 to $2 billion. The remainder of the funds goes to a variety of purposes, including rural drug enforcement, anti-youth-gang efforts and safe schools programs.
Sen. John Kerry attacked the bill as "extremely inadequate," and noted that it falls short of the 100,000 extra police Mr. Clinton promised during his election campaign.
"If people were dying at this rate in a war, we'd do something about it," said Mr. Kerry, D-Mass.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, has vowed to oppose the bill because, he says, it is not hard enough on criminals. Mr. Hatch would like to see stiffer criminal penalties, including broader death penalty provisions.