WASHINGTON — Rapists who subdue their victims with Rohypnol or other "date-rape" drugs risk having up to 20 years added to their sentences under legislation sent to President Clinton on Friday.
For the first time, the legislation makes it a crime to use a drug as a weapon. The House passed the bill by a voice vote, minutes before adjourning for the year. The Senate had approved the measure Thursday.
"It seems to me that this kind of manipulative drug use is as dangerous and loathsome as holding a knife to someone's throat--and should be dealt with accordingly," said Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-N.Y.), the bill's sponsor.
The 20-year sentence applies to use of an illegal drug as a tool of rape or other violent crime, as well as possession, manufacture or distribution of an illegal drug with intent to use it in commission of a violent crime. Simple possession of Rohypnol, with no proven intent, carries up to three years in prison.
Passage of the bill follows a sharp increase in reported use of Rohypnol pills, known on the street as "roofies." The odorless, colorless, tasteless tranquilizer, 10 to 20 times more powerful than Valium, can be dropped into victims' drinks, causing them to pass out and have little or no memory of what subsequently happens.
Although Rohypnol is illegal in the United States, it is used legally in other countries to treat sleeplessness, anxiety, convulsions and muscle tension.
The House had passed a slightly different version Sept. 26. It had to act by voice vote on the Senate version because most of its members had already left Washington to campaign for reelection.
Other bills the House approved Friday and sent to the president:
* Accountability: Subjects the White House to 11 civil rights and labor laws now applied to private companies. Congress applied these laws to itself last year.
* Commemorative coins: Directs the minting of coins to commemorate black Revolutionary War hero Crispus Attucks, the breaking of the color barrier in major league baseball by Jackie Robinson, Yellowstone National Park, the death of George Washington, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and others.
* Federal courts: Enacts numerous provisions streamlining the operation of federal courts, including changes in reappointing bankruptcy judges.
* Foreign nurses: Extends through September 1997 the visas of foreign nurses working in the United States under a program designed to ease nursing shortages in rural areas and inner cities.
* Human rights: Establishes scholarships and fellowships for exiled Tibetan and Burmese students and professionals; expands exchange programs for human rights leaders from China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Tibet and Burma; extends favorable immigration treatment by one year for Jews and Christians persecuted in the former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia; bans aid to Mauritania, except humanitarian assistance, unless it rigorously enforces its laws against slavery.