The President's Radio Address
Good morning. As I'm sure you know, a couple of days ago the House of Representatives had a chance to pass the toughest attack on crime in our history, and they tried to take the easy way out. But the terrible threat of crime and violence is too great for us to let them get away with it. The easy way out is not an option.
Two hundred and twenty-five Members of Congress participated in a procedural trick orchestrated by the National Rifle Association and intensely pushed by the Republican congressional leadership, a trick designed with one thing in mind: to put the protection of partisan and special interests over the protection of ordinary American families. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.
The American people have been very clear on this. The most important job is to keep the streets and the neighborhoods of America safe. The first responsibility of Government is law and order. Without it, people can never really pursue the American dream. And without it, we're not really free. And the American people have said over and over again, today they're worried about crime. They're fighting for their personal security.
The House of Representatives has a responsibility to do something about it, but this week the House walked away from that responsibility. They had a vote on law and order, and law and order lost. But that can't be the end of this fight. The hard-working, law-abiding citizens of the United States deserve better.
Yesterday I went to Minnesota where I addressed the National Association of Police Organizations. This group represents more than 160,000 police officers across the country. They strongly support the crime bill. Earlier in the week, I met with the heads of every major law enforcement group in America. Together they represent over a half-million law enforcement officers. They don't walk away from their responsibility. They put their lives on the line every day for us. And we can't let Congress walk away from them.
The crime bill we're fighting for is a crime bill America's police officers and law enforcement officials want. Our prosecutors, our teachers, our principals, our parents, our attorneys general, our community leaders, they've all joined these police organizations in endorsing this crime bill. For 6 years, Congress has bickered and battled over a crime bill when the average violent felon only serves 4 years in prison.
This crime bill departs from all those labels of the past, from liberal or conservative or tough or compassionate. This crime bill emphasizes punishment, police, and protection.
Some people in Congress say it's time for their August vacation. Well, the crime plaguing ordinary Americans is not about to take a vacation, and it's only fitting that Congress stay in Washington until they get this job done. They can't walk away on a procedural trick.
I want a crime bill that puts 100,000 new police officers on the street, one that makes "three strikes and you're out" the law of the land, one that builds prisons to lock up violent criminals where they belong, one that takes handguns away from minors, one that provides prevention programs that police officers demand to help steer our kids in troubled areas away from crime and drugs in the first place. And the bills must be paid for not by raising taxes but by cutting the Federal bureaucracy.
I gave the Congress a plan to reduce the Federal bureaucracy by 250,000 and more over the next 5 years, to bring the Federal Government to its lowest level in 30 years, and to put all the savings in a trust fund to pay for the crime bill. And let me be clear about this: The crime bill must ban the assault weapons that have no place on our streets.
We don't need any more Washington, DC, games like the House of Representatives played last week. Up until that vote, this crime bill was bipartisan all the way, with Republicans and Democrats voting for everything that must be included. Now the Republicans say, well, there's too much money for prevention in this bill. They call it pork. Well, all I know is, all the police officers in this country know we need to give kids something to say yes to. I know that 65 Republicans voted for a bill that had even more prevention funds back in the spring, but only 11 would stand up to the withering pressure of their leadership when the bill came back and was ready to pass just this week.
The American people have to make it clear to Members of Congress from both parties that even if they disagree with a particular measure in this crime bill, the overall bill is the best, the smartest bill we have ever had in this country, and the American people need it. It's time to put politics aside and finish the job. Help our Nation's police officers make our streets safer.
This fight is not over. I am continuing it. I want you to fight with me. Our children, our families, our future deserve no less.
Thank you for listening.
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from Camp David, MD.
William J. Clinton, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218061