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Fighting crime tops GOP priorities
House Republicans yesterday outlined a legislative package to curb drug crime, gang violence and child pornography — pushing domestic safety issues they say will help them win back a majority.
Republican members of the Judiciary Committee criticized the Democratic leadership for leaving measures against violent crime off its publicized “first 100 hours” agenda last month.
“If you listened very carefully, there was a deafening silence when it came to dealing with violent crime,” said Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Virginia Republican.
Democrats, upon taking leadership of the House, gave top priority to implementing more of the September 11 commission’s recommendations, raising the minimum wage and increasing federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research.
Republicans, holding 202 seats in the 435-member House, plan to push their own priorities as they look toward the 2008 elections.
“We are taking an activist approach, we are taking initiative, coming up with our own agenda and our own ideas,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
Mr. Smith said he expects bipartisan support on the bills. “Crime is simply too important to leave to partisan politics,” he said.
The Republican Law and Order Agenda, formally introduced yesterday, lists nine proposals. Several were passed in the House in previous Congresses but stalled in the Senate.
Among the Republican proposals were bills to make the Internet safer for children, target identity theft and other cyberspace crime, and reduce fraudulent claims with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They also give law enforcement more tools to crack down on drug trafficking and gang crime.
“One thing is crystal clear: If we are going to do something about the skyrocketing murder rate, we have to break the back of the drug traffickers,” said Rep. Ric Keller, Florida Republican, whose hometown of Orlando has recorded a 122 percent increase in the homicide rate.
His bill would impose “stiff penalties” on drug dealers.
Republicans said gang problems are inextricably linked to a spike in the number of illegal aliens, and stressed the need for legislation to strengthen border security.
Another proposal would bolster counterterrorism tools and require the death penalty for terrorist killers.
Mr. Forbes said Republicans may not have the House votes to pass their agenda, but “if we don’t have them now we’ll get them two years from now.”
“I’m glad to see, it’s important to notice who’s talking about ideas in this Congress and I certainly hope that they will get a fair hearing and markup,” said Rep. Adam H. Putnam of Florida, the Republican Conference chairman.
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