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House Passes Anti-Terrorism Bill on Anniversary of Oklahoma Bombing

By Helen Dewar
The Washington Post

The House Thursday gave final approval to a compromise bill aimed at fighting terrorism and crime, sending the measure to President Clinton in time to mark Friday's first anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Clinton plans to sign the bill early next week even though it does not include some of the most stringent anti-terrorism proposals he sought, according to senior White House adviser George Stephanopoulos, who said Clinton will push for their passage in separate legislation.

The legislation includes unprecedented curbs on federal appeals by death-row inmates as well as tougher penalties for terrorist crimes and strengthened governmental powers to exclude suspected foreign terrorists from the United States.

The bill was approved by a bipartisan vote of 293 to 133 in the climax of a yearlong struggle during which it almost fell victim to an unlikely coalition of liberals and conservatives who found common cause in opposition to expansion of government law enforcement powers.

The final compromise "maintains the delicate balance between freedom and order" in enhancing the government's ability to fight crime and terrorism within limits decreed by the Constitution, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill.

But critics argued it tips the scales too far toward government-enforced order, sacrificing constitutional principles to "political expediency" prompted by the public clamor for action against crime and the nation's horror over terrorist acts. "We cannot sacrifice our constitutional principles because we are angry at people who are bombing," said Rep. Melvin L. Watt, D-N.C., in arguing against the limitations on death-row appeals.

The Senate approved the measure Wednesday by a vote of 91 to 8 after Democrats failed in a series of efforts to toughen the measure. In the House, Democrats tried to restore one key Clinton proposal, but failed, 274 to 148.