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Ineffable Courage to Compromise : Votes that could spell the difference on crime bill

Last week the now-famous federal crime bill missed by just eight votes in the House of Representatives. The Los Angeles area has two of the votes that could push it over the top the next time.

Perhaps as early as this week, the House will get its second shot at the procedural vote that could result in up to 100,000 new police officers on the streets, more prisons and more crime prevention programs. To be sure, resurrecting the $33-billion crime bill will take courage and compromise in Washington.

Most of the Congressional Black Caucus opposed the crime bill’s broad expansion of capital punishment because African Americans are disproportionately sentenced to death. Even so, 27 of the 38 voting members of the caucus supported the Administration. They compromised.

It also took courage to support the assault weapons ban in the face of a withering barrage by the National Rifle Assn.

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The Republican claim that the bill would result in the hiring of two social workers for every new police officer is wrong. There are surely a few rinds here and there, but legitimate crime prevention programs must not be disparaged as political pork.

Many of the crime bill’s benefits are directed toward poor urban communities like the district of Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, which includes Watts and other parts of South-Central Los Angeles. Waters voted against the crime bill because of her staunch, principled opposition to the death penalty. But her constituents would benefit so directly from more police and other new federal programs that, having made her point, she should now vote with the President.

All other California Democrats supported the procedural vote that would have allowed the crime bill to proceed last week. But all California Republicans opposed it. That wasn’t the case in April. Back then, eight California Republicans voted for the more progressive House version of the bill, which included the assault weapons ban. Among those Republicans was Rep. Steve Horn of Long Beach.

Last week the thoughtful and independent Horn, a political science scholar, voted against the rule to protest how the Democratic majority mistreats the Republican minority on procedural matters in the House. He needs to get his frustration behind him, especially since he strongly supports the assault weapons ban.

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California stands to get perhaps $900 million from the bill. Only eight votes are needed to send the bill forward. Waters and Horn need to summon up the courage to compromise.


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