Clinton, Democrats offer compromise on crime bill

August 19, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton and Democratic congressional leaders emerged from an emergency White House meeting yesterday with what aides said was a compromise that could gain enough Republican converts to rescue the crime bill and win House passage by early next week.

At the same time, various groups of House Republicans set their own terms for a deal with Mr. Clinton. But it appeared that the White House was resisting any broad compromise and seeking instead to win just enough Republican votes to enable the president to claim victory.

A senior White House official said the compromise package would include about $2.5 billion in cuts in the crime-prevention programs that have been the main target of GOP criticism.

But it would ease only slightly the ban on 19 assault-type weapons opposed by 48 conservative Democrats who joined Republican leaders in dealing a major defeat to the president by voting to keep the bill from debate on the House floor last week.

The new White House proposal stops far short of the multibillion-dollar cuts urged by Rep. Newt Gingrich, the Republican House whip who has been the administration's chief foe in a weeklong battle over what an acceptable crime bill would include.

Clinton aides said that the plan produced yesterday was as far as the president would go. They said its terms had been hammered out after meetings on Capitol Hill yesterday to meet conditions set by Republicans they have identified as those most likely to switch to Mr. Clinton's side.

"If this doesn't go far enough, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that they're just playing politics," the official said of Republican leaders.

The competing proposals marked the latest round in an increasingly high-stakes standoff between House Republicans, led by Mr. Gingrich, and Mr. Clinton, who has devoted nearly all of his time for a week to reviving the measure.

Their debate now may focus on whether by agreeing to trim what had been a $33 billion bill by nearly 10 percent overall, Mr. Clinton has agreed to allow the "massive cuts" that the White House said only two days ago that he would not permit.

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