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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Crime Bill Gets Voted Down

WASHINGTON -- An alliance of Republican lawmakers and Democratic gun-control opponents has blocked the House of Representatives from voting on the long-stalled crime bill, dealing a major blow to the Clinton administration and throwing the future of the massive $33 billion anti-crime initiative into grave doubt.


While Republicans suggested that the 225-210 defeat Thursday of a technical rule was an opportunity to redraft the bill to be even tougher on crime, Democrats said the measure is now virtually dead for the year because no substitute is likely to pass the House without the provisions the Republicans oppose -- a ban on assault weapons and funding for after-hours school programs to keep violence-prone youngsters off the streets at night.


Shortly after the vote, Clinton went on nationwide television to denounce the lawmakers for having "failed the American people." He blamed Republicans and the gun lobby for defeating the bill on a "procedural trick" and demanded that Congress remain in session throughout a summer recess.


"I don't think they ought to go home," Clinton said. "You know, the people who are committing these crimes are not going to take a vacation."


House Speaker Thomas Foley told reporters that he would try to revive the crime bill next week.


But Democrats were skeptical of success when Congress is already preoccupied with trying to save the president's foundering health care initiative.


"It's criminal what happened," sobbed Republican Barbara Kennelly as she emerged from a Democratic leadership meeting with tears streaming down her face.


The grim, stunned looks on the faces of Clinton's allies confirmed that they shared her assessment of what had happened: a coalition of Republicans and conservative rural Democrats opposed to gun control measures had defeated a technical motion that had to be approved before the crime bill could come up for final passage.


Democrats generally avoided criticism of fellow party members who voted against the bill. Clinton, when asked about the 58 defecting Democrats, sidestepped the issue. The 15-vote margin by which the motion eventually lost was a double blow because it underscored the Democrat's failure to keep its own troops in line.


The administration's prospects for reviving the bill rest on hopes for an outcry by angry constituents. Polls have shown strong public support for the measure.


In an effort to stir that anger, Clinton hastily added a crime-related event to his Friday schedule. Dropping plans to swear in Steven Breyer as a Supreme Court justice, Clinton will fly instead to Minneapolis to speak to the National Association of Police Organizations, which is meeting there.


With Clinton's health care initiative also in trouble, the effective defeat of the crime bill on a procedural motion meant that the Democrats who control Congress may have to face angry voters in November with few legislative accomplishments to show.


Losing the crime bill vote "is a very, very serious blow to the president," said political analyst William Schneider, saying that Clinton appeared as a "weak and ineffectual leader who cannot deliver on his promises."