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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Clinches Victory as Crime Bill Passes

WASHINGTON -- In one of the biggest victories of President Bill Clinton's tenure, the Senate has passed a $30 billion crime bill, sending the controversial legislation to the White House for his signature.


The final 61-38 vote came just a few hours after a Republican point of order against the bill was resoundingly overturned, 61-39. Six Republicans joined 55 Democrats in the crucial vote, while 38 Republicans and one Democrat opposed it.


If the point of order had been upheld, it would have killed the bill.


The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Sunday. It is a compromise between earlier House and Senate bills.


The move marked a major defeat for the National Rifle Association, which opposed the bill because it bans 19 semiautomatic weapons.


"This crime bill is going to make every neighborhood in America safer -- and the bipartisan spirit that produced it should give every American hope that we can come together to do the job they sent us here to do," Clinton said in a statement.


"I want to thank the members of both parties, in the House and Senate, who answered the call of ordinary Americans to get this job done," he added.


In addition to the gun ban, the bill would authorize funds for 100,000 local police over five years, more prisons and crime prevention programs and would lock up for life anyone convicted of three violent crimes. It would also extend the federal death penalty to 60 crimes.


Republicans had blocked a final vote on the $30 billion bill since Monday, trying to get the majority Democrats to allow a vote on their amendments to cut the bill by at least $5 billion and make it tougher. "This bill is not tough on crime," said Utah Republican Orrin Hatch.


But Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell refused and forced Republicans to make a point of order against the bill in order to have a vote.


"It's a fair, strong, well-crafted bill. This bill is right for the American people," Mitchell said.


Democrats have a 56-44 Senate majority. Republicans only needed 41 votes to sustain the point of order but some moderate Republicans were leery of helping block a bill that has strong public support in a congressional election year.


"I regret that I failed as a leader to keep the Republicans together," Republican Leader Bob Dole said.


Kentucky Democrat Wendell Ford said the crime issue had become a "hot horseshoe" in a congressional election year for Republicans, who long have claimed they are tougher on crime than Democrats.


Mitchell, a Maine Democrat, said changing the bill again would send it back to the House for further delays and probably kill it. He offered to have a vote on a single Republican amendment, but Republicans rejected the offer.


Critics say that the bill will only have a limited effect since about 95 percent of crimes fall under state or local law.


?Majority leader George Mitchell decided Thursday to let weary lawmakers go home for the summer, despite a vow to keep the Senate in session until it votes on Clinton's far-reaching health reform package.


The Senate would adjourn until the first weekend in September, Mitchell said, giving a core group of senators and staff time to try to work on a compromise measure that would fall well short of Clinton's original goal of providing universal health coverage.