Capitol Crime Extravaganza
The high crime rates of the early 1990s and a string of sensational crimes from coast to coast set the stage in 1994 for the most extensive and costly federal anticrime bill ever. Bill Clinton had made crime fighting a top priority, particularly after his health care reform bill had faltered. Congress had taken the initiative, led by Democrats Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware and Representative Charles Schumer of New York. The Democrats came up with a way to put $30 billion for anticrime programs into a ‘trust fund’ created by a reduction in the federal bureaucracy. Soon it seemed that Clinton's 100,000 community police officers, a Republican demand for more prisons, and various other programs to combat violence against women and other crime problems all could be funded. Republicans backed off support of big allocations for crime prevention ideas like ‘midnight basketball’ for teens, and the National Rifle Association fought against a proposed ban on assault‐style weapons. The result was a donnybrook that kept Congress in session through most of the summer. Republicans eventually won a series of concessions on funding, although the assault weapon provision survived and the law was passed. In the process, Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill was seen as so flawed that the crime law played a significant part in the Republicans’ seizing control of the House of Representatives in the 1994 elections. Five years later, the crime law's impact on crime rates was uncertain; in fact, crime had begun to fall long before many of its provisions could have had much effect.
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