Senate juvenile crime bill in trouble
Republicans want final vote by Tuesday night
May 17, 1999
Web posted at: 5:49 p.m. EDT (2149 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 17) -- While debate resumed Monday, the juvenile justice bill under consideration in the Senate has become bogged down under a flurry of amendments and Republicans are threatening to shut down consideration of the entire package unless Democrats agree to a vote deadline.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
Senate Republicans, anxious to limit political damage following controversial gun control votes taken last week, are setting Tuesday night as the deadline for action. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) warned that there are too many important bills pending to debate the crime bill indefinitely.
But Democrats are not ready to let Republicans off the hook and may resurrect the so-called "gun-show loophole" issue that proved to be so politically explosive last week.
Senate Democrats are likely to re-introduce their amendment which would require tough background checks before all sales at gun shows. That amendment, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey), was rejected by the Senate last Wednesday.
The political heat that resulted from that vote forced Republicans to quickly reverse themselves and instead pass a GOP version Friday that would require some background checks.
But Democrats charged the Republican amendment is insufficient because it limits the gun-show checks to 24 hours instead of the normal, more thorough, three days; doesn't cover flea markets; and would repeal a law that requires pawnshops to do background checks when a customer reclaims a gun.
Sen. Patrick Leahy
Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) negotiated over the weekend to try to reach a new compromise on the gun show issue.
The juvenile crime bill, sponsored by Hatch, has been in the works for two years. It was finally rushed to the Senate floor while the Littleton, Colorado school shootings were still fresh in nation's mind and is meant to respond to punish youth crime.
In appearances on "Fox News Sunday" and ABC's "This Week," Hatch conceded his bill is imperfect, but he said the Republicans remain open to more compromise.
Still, Republicans have accused Democrats of playing politics with an issue that is particularly sensitive in the wake of Littleton and warn that if it continues the whole juvenile justice bill may be tabled if a final vote does not take place by midweek.
Lawmakers appear to have reached aggrement on one issue at least: There is expected to be enough Republican support to pass an amendment that would require that child safety devices, like trigger locks or sealed storage compartments, be included with handgun sales. It would be up to the owner to use the devices.
"It's going to pass" Hatch, who is co-sponsoring the amendment with Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), told ABC's "This Week."
The Republican-controlled Senate rejected a similar proposal 61-39 last July. Hatch and 51 other Republicans voted against last year, along with nine Democrats.
The biggest difference between the two versions is that the latest measure grants limited liability protection to owners whose guns cause accidental damage despite the proper use of the safety device.
Other amendments to the juvenile justice bill that were accepted by the Senate last week would restrict access of children under the age of 18 to semiautomatic weapons and ban the importation of high-capacity magazines.
CNN's Bob Franken contributed to this report.