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News Briefs

Gingrich Says He Won't Run For President in '96

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

House Speaker Newt Gingrich (RGa.), after consulting with his wife and friends over the weekend, said Monday that he would not run for president in 1996.

In closing the door on a bid for his party's nomination, Gingrich doused the long-shot hopes of some party conservatives who urged him to fill a void left by the departure last week of former Vice President Dan Quayle from the Republican field.

Speaking at a gathering of business leaders in an Atlanta suburb Monday, Gingrich said overseeing passage of the House Republicans' Contract With America and redefining the role of the federal government were more important to him than running for president.

Gingrich's announcement came as no surprise to political professionals, potential competitors, and close associates of the speaker. Some said it would have been difficult to mount a presidential campaign while presiding over an ambitious agenda as the first House Republican speaker in 40 years - especially given the most front-loaded caucus and primary calendar in history.

In addition, some Republicans argued that Gingrich was rapidly becoming the most influential political figure in the country and could more effectively lead from the speaker's chair.

"The center of political gravity has moved from the White House to the Congress, and presently the House side of the Congress seems to be the center of attention," said Rep. John Linder (RGa.).

Gingrich's decision leaves the GOP nomination open; Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (Kan.), Sen. Phil Gramm (Tex.) and former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander are the current leading candidates.

House Opens Debate On Crime Bill Block Grants

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

The House Monday opened debate on a Republican proposal to offer local governments $10 billion in crime-fighting block grants.

Attorney General Janet Reno joined House Democrats and the nation's largest police groups in urging Republicans to back away from the block grant program they promised in last fall's campaign.

The GOP measure, the last of six separate anti-crime bills, would wipe out $8 billion in grants for hiring the 100,000 local police that Clinton promised in his 1992 campaign.

"That bill is working and it's being done in a straightforward, nonbureaucratic fashion," Reno said at a Capitol news conference. "Congress must not move backward in the fight against crime."

Leaders of groups representing 450,000 of the nation's 550,000 police endorsed the current program, which so far has made grants to 8,000 communities to hire 17,000 officers.

"President Clinton's crime bill guarantees police. Newt's guarantees pork," Schumer said, referring to Speaker Newt Gingrich (RGa.)

"To assume in the beginning that they're going to waste this profligately on pork is an insult, really," Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) said. "It demeans public officials in the thousands of cities and towns around this country."