Drug czar William J. Bennett today won a Democratic Senate committee chairman's promise of cooperation to hasten legislation launching the war on drugs but came under renewed fire over the Administration's refusal to expand prohibitions against assault rifles said to be favored by drug dealers.
"From the Congress we need not only support for our ideas but also a speedy reallocation of federal dollars necessary to implement this anti-drug program," Bennett said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the plan.
In contrast to complaints by some Democrats after President Bush announced the plan Tuesday, the hearing was relatively smooth. Judiciary Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) urged expedited talks aimed at putting the legislation "on a fast track."
The mainly warm reception that Bennett received from the committee was broken only when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) questioned him about the Administration's continued refusal to ban American-made assault rifles.
The Administration barred import of a number of the military-style weapons earlier this year, but it has not moved against domestic weapons. The National Rifle Assn. has been lobbying hard to block gun bills in the House and Senate.
Kennedy said recent seizures in Colombian drug raids show that "half of the guns that are used locally are being manufactured here in the United States of America."
"The American people I think want action with regard to the weapons of choice of these thugs and mobsters on the streets, and they're being exported and used to gun down members of the judiciary in Colombia and other places," he said.