WASHINGTON -- Congressional leaders say they will try again to pass anti-crime legislation, despite President Reagan's decision to kill a bill that would have created a Cabinet-level 'drug czar.'
Using a pocket veto, Reagan declined Friday to sign into law an anti-crime bill that included his own proposals to crack down on crime and a controversial measure for a Cabinet-level post to oversee drug investigations.
Reagan, in a memorandum justifying his action, said the bill included a provision for a Cabinet-level 'drug czar' that would have created 'another layer of bureaucracy' in the fight against narcotics.
A Justice Department official who declined to be idenitifed said the administration would try again to get Congress to pass tough anti-crime legislation that did not include the 'drug czar' provision.
He said the provision was a 'gimmick' and a 'Band-Aid' for a problem that has come under control since the Reagan administration took office.
The 'drug czar' provision was proposed in 1979 before the current administration embarked on an intensified war against drugs that included closer federal, state and local cooperation.
The official also said the administration opposes a provision authorizing federal prosecution of armed robbers or burglars who have been convicted in state courts twice before. Under that provision, state officials had the authority to review the decision by a U.S. attorney.
But members of Congress had mixed reactions to the president's decision and vowed to push anti-crime legislation through the next session of Congress.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del, one of the architects of the czar provision, called Reagan's action a 'severe setback' to the war against crime.
'I am not surprised at the veto, however, because this administration has -- to put it frankly -- always been strong on rhetoric about crime but weak on substantive action,' Biden said.
Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., a key sponsor of the bill, said he felt the bill should have been signed, and the new Congress should make an effort to pass legislation that would meet the administration's objections.
'I'm not angry about it,' he said. 'But I think it would have been better if the president had signed it,' Thurmond said.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Peter Rodino, D-N.J., said he was 'disappointed' but would 'continue to push for anti-crime legislation in the new Congress.
But Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, said the bill would have done 'nothing to fight crime' and would have created 'the most bureaucratic nonsense in the world.'
'Not one of its provisions would reduce crime or deter crime,' Conyers said.