GOP crime bill draws fire

THE House is edging toward passage of a Republican anticrime package. But it is drawing fire from the White House.

The legislation, part of the GOP's ``Contract With America,'' aims to restructure the $30-billion crime law enacted last year. President Clinton is mounting an uphill effort to head off the legislation's centerpiece, a measure that would threaten plans to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets.

He argues it would prevent thousands of small towns and suburbs with fewer than 50,000 residents who were supposed to receive money for new officers under the 1994 crime legislation from getting it. Nonsense, Republicans say.

Under proposed GOP legislation, money earmarked for police and crime prevention would be combined and made available to cities and counties to use as they see fit - including for hiring more officers.

Also contentious, a GOP move to limit the time allowed death-row inmates to file appeals of sentences. Despite the skirmishes, Republicans are expected to win approval for their six-part package.

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