• U.S.

Evolution of a Crime Bill

3 minute read


APRIL 21 — The omnibus crime bill, HR4092, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 285 to 141. In addition to $28 billion in spending for programs such as police hiring and training, prison construction and crime prevention, the bill contained provisions for an expansion of the death penalty to cover dozens of federal crimes, a Racial Justice Act that would allow defendants to use racial statistics to challenge death sentences as discriminatory, and a ban on the sale or transfer of handguns to juveniles without parental consent. On May 5 the House separately approved a ban on the sale of 19 assault weapons by a vote of 216 to 214. The entire package then went to a conference committee to be reconciled with the Senate’s own omnibus crime bill, which passed in November.


AUG. 11 — The House voted on a parliamentary rule needed to bring HR3355, the crime bill as amended in conference, to the floor for an up-or-down vote. The package differed from the original bill in several significant ways: its overall price tag had increased $5 billion, to $33 billion, and it authorized $5.3 billion more to hire twice as many police officers, but $4.8 billion less for prison construction; it contained $7.6 billion — $600 million more — for crime prevention and created a $30.2 billion crime “trust fund” to cover expenses. Ten million dollars was earmarked for the establishment of a criminal-justice center at Lamar University in Texas, which falls within the district of House Judiciary Committee chairman Jack Brooks. The racial-justice provision was dropped. Passage would have meant a subsequent vote on the actual bill, but the rule was defeated, 225 to 210.


AUG. 21 — After 10 days of wrangling, a new configuration of HR3355 reached the floor and passed, 235 to 195. Changes from the defeated version included a shift in about $2 billion from prevention to enforcement, bringing the total authorization for police hiring and training to $13.5 billion and for prison construction to $9.9 billion, while leaving $5.5 billion for recreational and educational programs designed to steer young people away from crime. Non- monetary provisions included tougher penalties for sex offenders and spouse abusers. Funding for the justice center at Lamar University was deleted. Over all, the bill was $3.3 billion cheaper than the conference bill defeated Aug. 11.


AUG. 25 — Senate Republicans, calling for 13 changes in the crime package that cleared the House on Aug. 21, forced a procedural vote to reopen the bill to further amendment. Supporters of the package, who needed 60 votes to defeat this procedural challenge, prevailed, 61 to 39 (recorded below), thus clearing the way for a final up-or-down vote on HR3355. The bill passed, 61 to 38.


CREDIT: Voting records provided by Congressional Quarterly Inc.


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