Brady blocked by Republicans



WASHINGTON (AP)—Senate Republicans blocked a vote Monday night on a compromise handgun control bill in a high-stakes political showdown that threatened Congress’ plans to wrap up their work by Thanksgiving.

‘‘We got zippo,’‘ GOP Leader Bob Dole said of a House-Senate compromise that Democrats crafted to their own liking in what was originally planned to be the final hours of Congress’ session for the year.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell said lawmakers would be called back to the Capitol after Thanksgiving if the so-called Brady bill hadn’t been approved by then.

The maneuvering came on legislation to mandate a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases, one of several major bills on the agenda as lawmakers struggled to conclude their work.

Compromise legislation to extend jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed also was up for final passage in the House, as was a bill to provide a final $18 billion to clean up the savings and loan fiasco.

And, acting on what leaders hoped would be the final day of work for the year, the House approved a plan to remake the campaign finance laws, a key item on Clinton’s agenda. The 255-175 vote set up what are likely to be contentious negotiations with the Senate, which approved its own bill earlier in the year.

But it was the Brady bill, which supporters would slow the spread of lethal handguns, that held center stage in the final hours of the year’s session.

The Senate cleared an earlier version of the bill on Saturday night, as Republicans dropped a filibuster to permit passage.

But when negotiators for the House and Senate met early Monday evening, Democrats stripped many of those provisions from their compromise, and vowed to press ahead on final passage.

Dole accused Democrats of pressing for a political issue, rather than working for a compromise that could win approval. ‘‘We thought they wanted a bill so we relented Saturday evening,’‘ he said.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said House Democrats were demanding changes in the Senate bill as the price for passage, and defended the compromise.

Dole hinted broadly at another filibuster, and said, ‘‘I don’t believe that under these conditions’‘ that gun control advocates could surmount it—either this year or in 1994.

Clinton urged Congress on Monday night to ‘‘give the American people a present for Thanksgiving.

‘‘If for some reason the Senate does not pass the bill tonight, then I certainly strongly support’‘ the idea that Congress return after Thanksgiving to complete work on the measure, Clinton told reporters from the South Lawn of the White House.

The Brady Bill has been the subject of political fireworks for seven years. It’s never been as close to passage as this year, as lawmakers of both political parties responded to wideapread public anger about crime in the streets.

Whether this week or next, the first session of the 103rd Congress—the year of 114 House freshmen and record numbers of women—was nearly over. Its main accomplishments included enactment of Clinton’s package of tax hikes and spending cuts over unanimous Republican opposition and last week’s approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement, in which Republicans provided more votes than Democrats in both the House and Senate.

It was clear that many lawmakers were ready for the end.

Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., briefly donned a clown’s hat and a plastic red nose to poke fun at the Democrats’ campaign finance bill. ‘‘It’s goofy, it’s complex, it’s unbelievable,’‘ he said.

Developments during the day:

_ The campaign finance bill was approved despite the reservations of many Democrats. The measure would place a $600,000 voluntary spending limit on congressional races and motivate candidates to comply by promising government ‘‘vouchers’‘ to defray television advertising and postage costs. It also would bar candidates from taking more than $200,000 in contributions from political action committees.

Republicans complained the bill contained no provision to pay for the vouchers, and they also wanted a flat ban on PAC contributions.

_ The House rejected, 219-213 a measure crafted by conservatives to cut spending by $90 billion over five years, largely by trimming Medicare. The White House and Democratic leaders opposed the plan, saying the cuts should wait until next year and be part of Clinton’s health care plan. By 272-163, they approved an alternative cutting $37 billion offered by Clinton and Democratic leaders that focused mainly on trimming the size of the federal bureaucracy.

_ The Senate Ethics Committee, investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against Sen. Bob Packwood, filed suit to enforce its subpoena for the Oregon Republican’s diaries from 1989 through this past July. Packwood has until Dec. 6 to reply.

_ The unemployment legislation, cleared Saturday by the Senate, would provide up to 13 weeks of extra benefits for one million workers who have exhausted their basic 26 weeks of jobless help. The bill would cover those whose basic benefits expired between Oct. 2 and next Feb. 5.

_ The savings and loan measure, also approved by the Senate over the weekend, is designed to conclude the cleanup. If all the money is spent, it will bring the total taxpayer cost of the S&L bailout to more than $150 billion since 1987.