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Clinton at a Crossroads : Finally, a bit of bipartisanship resuscitates the crime bill

Bill Clinton celebrated his 48th birthday Friday, but it was on Sunday night that he got the present that he--and most Americans--wanted.

After negotiating all but nonstop since Friday afternoon, the House of Representatives reversed itself and voted to approve a somewhat less bulbous version of the omnibus crime bill that last week had stalled in a dramatic defeat for the Administration.

The vote left President Clinton--and, it seemed, the entire Clinton presidency--practically gasping for air. Because Washington’s options are limited by federal budget constraints--and the general anti-spending mood of the nation--the Administration had implanted a good deal of its urban-aid program in this legislation intended to, among other things, put more cops on the streets. It also originally contained a large dollop of domestic crime-prevention programs, tainted with some huge chunks of pork. But now overall spending has been trimmed by roughly 10%.

The new crime bill is the result of tenacious lobbying by the President himself, hard bipartisan negotiations by Congressional leaders, some tough compromises by black Democrats and some good work by Republican moderates. Because Clinton is the President of all Americans, not the Democratic President, thoughtful Republicans should continue to offer him reasonable cooperation whenever possible. As Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Long Beach) stated to the House before switching to the President’s side: “I am delighted to say that this is the first major bipartisan effort I have seen since NAFTA. I think it bodes well for the country. . . . (Clinton) is at a crossroads in his presidency. We want him to be a successful President.”

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