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Black Caucus yields on crime bill

August 18, 1994|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Washington Bureau of The Sun Sun staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

Mr. Wynn noted that no crime bill has ever drawn so much support from black lawmakers. But by denying Mr. Clinton victory last week, blacks who opposed the measure gave Republicans and conservative Democrats the leverage to make the measure less attractive to blacks.

Those arguments mean little to black lawmakers like Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat who said he remained deeply opposed in principle to the death penalty provisions.

"My position isn't a political position," he said. "I feel if you have a chance to stand up against racial injustice and don't do it, who will?"

The question is how much Mr. Clinton and his allies must yield to pick up the remaining votes they need from conservative Democrats and Republicans. Mr. Mfume guessed that one more black might change his vote to back the president; Mr. Lewis said he thought a few whites also would come along.

But even the 11 moderate Republicans who voted with Mr. Clinton last week told him that their support isn't assured. Rep. Constance A. Morella of Montgomery County, who was among those 11 Republicans, estimated that $1 billion to $2 billion might have to be cut from preventive programs in the bill to capture most of the Republican moderates who support the assault weapons ban, and that toughening of the criminal provisions was needed.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke of Baltimore spoke somberly yesterday of the need for the $33 billion crime bill as he left his office to join a delegation of mayors and police chiefs lobbying on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Schmoke, a Democrat, said he has worked for more than three years on the crime bill with other big-city mayors. "We're trying very hard to explain to Congress that this is a matter that needs bipartisan support," he said. "It's essential."

For Baltimore, the bill would provide funding to hire more police, expand drug treatment programs and resurrect police youth clubs.

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