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Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 4092 - Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994

April 14, 1994


(Brooks (D) Texas and 3 others)

The Administration strongly supports prompt passage of H.R. 4092, which embodies the central elements of the President's anti-crime legislative agenda. This critical legislation will enable the Federal Government to play a significantly enhanced role in the Nation's fight against the crime and violence that plague too many of our communities.

Passage of H.R. 4092 will assist the States and localities in their efforts against violent crime — particularly in the critical areas of prevention, police, and prisons. In addition, H.R. 4092 will provide necessary tools to Federal law enforcement officials, improving their effectiveness in combating violent crime. The bill will expand and advance proven crime prevention programs in an unprecedented way.

H.R. 4092 contains key elements of the President's anti-crime program, including:

  • A Substantial Start Towards Putting an Additional 100,000 Police Officers on Our Streets, Engaged in Community Policing. This is the centerpiece of the President's anticrime program. Putting more officers on the street — working with communities — is the best way to prevent crime and illicit drug use, to ensure that criminals are apprehended when crimes occur, and to return to our citizens the sense of security that has been taken from them.

  • Launching a "Smart and Tough" Approach to Youth Crime and Violence. This bill focuses our efforts to combat youthful violence with:

    — Proven and extensive drug and crime prevention programs, to give kids something to say "yes" to (discussed below);

    — Boot camps for youthful offenders, as a second-chance for kids who get off-track;

    — Drug courts to get drug users turned around before they commit more serious crimes;

         A prohibition against the transfer of handguns to juveniles, and a ban on juvenile handgun possession, with certain exceptions; and

    — For hardened young criminals, the authority to try 13- year olds as adults for serious violent offenses.

  • Measures to Stiffly Punish Violent Crime. In addition to the vital prison program discussed below, the bill contains several measures to ensure that violent offenders cannot continue to prey upon our communities. These include:

    — The President's "three strikes and you're out" life imprisonment provision, which is targeted on the career violent offenders who do so much violent harm.

    — Reinstating the Federal death penalty for the most heinous offenses, including the killing of Federal law enforcement officers.

  • Significant and Innovative Crime Prevention Programs that Give Our Young People Something to Say "Yes" To. While we must — and will — insist upon personal responsibility, and punish those who commit crimes regardless of their circumstances, we must also do what we can to keep young people from beginning to engage in crime. Among the prevention programs in the bill that the Administration strongly supports are:

    — The President's "YES" program (Youth Employment and Skills), to give employment opportunities to kids in hard-hit, high-crime areas;

    —"Ounce of Prevention" programs to keep schools open after hours and to expand after-school activities, like Boys and Girls clubs, that keep kids off the streets; and

    — Innovative alternatives like Midnight Sports and Police Partnerships with Youths.

    Prevention programs make sense, and are an important part of any balanced attack on the illicit drug use, crime, and violence that plague our cities, towns, neighborhoods, and rural communities. The Administration supports the full authorization level contained in H.R. 4092 for prevention programs.

  • Assisting the States in Building and Operating More Prison Cells, to Get More Violent Offenders and Criminal Aliens Off Our Streets. It is incumbent upon the Federal Government to aid States that are struggling to make sure that violent criminals are not being released prematurely for lack of space. The Federal Government is building the prisons necessary to ensure that Federal offenders are not being prematurely released, and this Administration is committed to maintaining the necessary capacity. However, none of us will be safe until the States can do the same.

  • Stopping Violence Against Women. The bill includes a plan, strongly supported by the President, to increase penalties and prevention efforts aimed at domestic violence and sexual assaults that make American women unsafe in their homes or on the street.

  • Other Initiatives. Among the other Administration-supported provisions of H.R. 4092 are those that would promote victims' rights, prevent child abuse, provide a "safety- valve" from mandatory minimum sentences for first-time nonviolent offenders, and increase penalties for hate crimes.

While the Administration does not agree with every program or provision in H.R. 4092, it firmly believes that, taken as a whole, the bill is a balanced approach to the problem of crime, and contains many much-needed crime-fighting measures. The Administration looks forward to working with the House to obtain prompt passage of this important legislation.

Floor Amendments to H.R. 4092

A number of amendments have been made in order for floor consideration of H.R. 4092. Some of these amendments would enhance the bill, but others raise problems or concerns. The Administration's comments on particular amendments follow. (The amendment numbers in this statement refer to the numbering of submitted amendments by the Rules Committee.)

I.    Death Penalty

#74 (Scott). This amendment eliminates death penalty authorizations for killings committed in the course of carjackings or drive-by shootings, and for killings committed with firearms in the course of Federal crimes of violence and drug trafficking crimes. The Administration opposes this amendment because it is contrary to the President's support for restoring an enforceable Federal death penalty for the most heinous Federal crimes.

#127 (Kooetski). The Administration opposes this amendment, which provides that, whenever a Federal law provides for the imposition of the death penalty, the court should impose a sentence of life imprisonment instead. The President has stated that restoration of an enforceable Federal death penalty is an important element of comprehensive anti-crime legislation.

II.    Three Strikes and You're Out

#53 (Solomon). This amendment provides that convictions for certain drug offenses uniformly count as "strikes" for purposes of the "three strikes and you're out" life imprisonment proposal. The Administration opposes this amendment as diffusing the proper focus of the proposal on incorrigible repeat violent offenders.

#61 (Frank). The Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment to the President's "three strikes and you're out" proposal that allows a serious drug offense to be counted as one of the two prior strikes. The Administration supports amendment #61, which restores the approach of the President's original proposal, where only violent crimes would count as "strikes."

III. Prisons

#155 Chapman. This amendment authorizes grants for expansion of correctional capacity in States that undertake to adopt "truth in sentencing" reforms to protect the public from violent criminals. The Administration supports this amendment as a reasonable approach to setting conditions for State participation in a prison grant program.

While the Administration supports increased assistance to States for the incarceration of criminals, reservations remain concerning the specific funding level proposed in the amendment ($10.5 billion) for State and local prisons. The Administration supports a balanced approach to fighting crime that ensures the availability of adequate funding for all components of the President's crime plan — police, punishment, and prevention. Support for this amendment is conditioned upon seeking an appropriate funding level for prison grants in conference, consistent with the Administration's other priorities in this bill.

#94 (Beilenson). The Administration supports House passage of the Beilenson amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to assist States in funding the incarceration of undocumented criminal aliens. The Administration recognizes the special financial burdens faced by States with high populations of criminal aliens and will be proposing a Federal financial assistance package to help mitigate this problem.

The Administration intends to work in conference to delete the October 1, 1998, expiration date for the requirement that the amendment be subject to appropriation.

#167 (McCollum). Although the Administration recognizes that the Federal Government must do more to help States house the growing prison population, the Administration fears that the McCollum substitute amendment would actually have the effect of reducing the Federal Government's ability to help States get violent criminals off the streets.

Specifically, the Administration opposes the imposition of eligibility requirements that are too burdensome for the States to meet and may result in less effort being made to incarcerate violent criminals. The substitute amendment offered by Representative McCollum mandates specific sentencing policies that most States are unlikely to adopt. Enacting these required measures forces States to assume such potentially enormous costs that few States, if any, would take advantage of the grant program.

#43 (Gordon). The Administration opposes this amendment, which would prohibit the award of Pell Grants to prisoners. The amendment would undermine the Administration's attempts to reduce recidivism through prisoner education. High-quality education, skills development, and job training that lead to gainful employment are key to reducing the incidence of crime in our Nation. In addition, the availability of Pell Grants to prisoners has no effect on the availability of Pell Grants for law-abiding students. By law, all eligible students who apply for Pell Grants receive them. As part of the Higher Education Amendments of 1992 the Congress required the Department of Education to write a report, which will be available to Congress late this year, on the use of Federal Pell Grants by incarcerated students. The Administration believes that legislative action prior to the release of this report would be inappropriate.

#149 (Wynn). The Administration opposes this amendment, which, while less objectionable than the Gordon amendment, could have the effect of inconsistently limiting the availability of Pell Grants to prisoners.

IV.    Other Amendments

#49 (Hover). The Administration supports this amendment, which authorizes funds for increased Treasury law enforcement activities. Treasury's law enforcement bureaus have a crucial role to play in fighting street crime, gang violence, drug trafficking, and smuggling, and in supporting gun control and State and local law enforcement.

#58 (Slaughter). The Administration supports this amendment which strengthens Federal laws on explosives. Specifically, the amendment would: (1) require the U.S. Sentencing Commission to appropriately enhance the sentencing guideline for the repeat offense of using an explosive to commit a Federal felony; (2) make stealing explosives a Federal offense; and (3) make the disposal of explosives to felons unlawful. This amendment will close loopholes in current law.

#159 (McCurdy). The Administration has reservations concerning the specific funding levels in this amendment, especially with regard to post-training support of Police Corps graduates, but supports in concept the Police Corps proposal and recommends that the House of Representatives adopt the amendment.

William J. Clinton, Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 4092 - Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project