Racial Justice Act to leave Clinton holding the bag?


WASHINGTON -- If may be true that there are lies, damned lies and statistics, but never have statistics been more important than they are today.


The Senate, with only one black member, not only left the RJA out of its crime bill, but voted 58-41 in a nonbinding resolution to oppose the RJA.

(The politics of capital punishment were evident in how California's two Democratic senators split on the issue: Dianne Feinstein, up for re-election this year, voted against the RJA and Barbara Boxer, not facing re-election until 1998, voted for it.)

But Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Republican from Utah, has dubbed the RJA the "Death Penalty Abolition Act" and has threatened to filibuster the crime bill if the House-Senate conference retains any form of the RJA.

A compromise bill was supposed to be on the president's desk by Memorial Day. It wasn't. Then it was supposed to be there by the July 4 recess. But it didn't make it.

Then yesterday was the target date -- forget it. And now the mid-August recess is the new goal.

But if that deadline also passes and lawmakers do not have a fancy new crime bill to parade before the electorate this fall, a LTC scapegoat already is being prepared.

"The administration has to step up to the ball here," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democrat from Delaware and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Clinton "has to make clear to the Republicans in the Senate and the Congressional Black Caucus where he stands on Racial Justice."

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