The House yesterday topped the Senate's $22 billion legislation and approved nearly $28 billion to build more prisons, hire more police and lock up criminals longer in an election-year effort to ease public anxieties about violence.

The fractious politics of House Democrats required a convoluted legislative procedure that took almost half a year longer than the Senate needed to produce omnibus crime legislation of the sort President Clinton requested last August. The crime bill was sent to a conference with the Senate, 285 to 141.

"The House of Representatives made their intentions clear: Crime will not pay," Clinton said applauding a bill that devotes half of the $28 billion to new prisons, spends about one-fourth on a variety of crime prevention programs and most of the rest to hire 50,000 police officers.

The House bill, compared with the Senate version, proposes more funding to build prisons and steer young people away from crime but less to hire local police officers. The House version expands the federal death penalty to slightly more crimes, but moderates a politically popular plan to imprison for life offenders convicted in federal court of a third violent or serious drug crime.

Democratic supporters said the legislation offered a sensible and politically appealing balance between tougher punishment and effective prevention, but Republican critics dismissed it as not tough enough, particularly on the death penalty. Opposition from a majority of House Republicans made the vote much closer than the 95 to 4 vote to approve the Senate bill last November.

Because more than 90 percent of violent crime is handled at the state and local levels, the $28 billion legislation would try to meet its goals "to control and prevent crime" principally by aiding those governments, said Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on crime and criminal justice.

The legislation reached the floor last month with a price tag of $15 billion over five years, which a batch of amendments last week increased to $17 billion. Another $10.5 billion approved this week to help states build and operate prisons boosted the total to $27.9 billion.

"This is far and away the most expensive, and the most important, crime bill ever passed {in} Congress," House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) boasted yesterday.

But the authorized spending level is likely to be closer to the Senate's $22.3 billion, which would be financed by reductions already approved in the federal work force. House Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks (D-Tex.) said he would accept a Senate provision to put those savings into a trust fund reserved for the crime bill.

The House lurched from the left to the right in two weeks of debate that focused on the death penalty. By almost 3 to 1, lawmakers supported expanding the federal death penalty from two to 65 crimes, including fatal carjackings and drive-by killings.

They deleted provisions intended to streamline death row appeals and guarantee condemned prisoners competent counsel. But Wednesday the House narrowly upheld, 217 to 212, court procedures that would make it easier for defendants facing the death penalty to challenge death sentences as racially discriminatory, using statistics.

House Republican leaders cited the "racial justice" provisions as the main reason that 107 of 172 GOP lawmakers who voted opposed the 22-section bill addressing what public opinion polls indicate is the top issue in the nation.

Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said the disputed section would create "quotas for death penalties," while Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) said it would "truly abolish the death penalty."

Diann Rust-Tierney of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, which supported the racial justice provisions, said prosecutors could challenge the validity of statistical evidence or cite aggravating factors to justify a death sentence. A 1987 Supreme Court ruling that statistics were not enough to invalidate death penalty laws as unconstitutional would remain in force, she said.

The racial justice provisions, together with $7 billion for prevention programs, helped win support from a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus, which split 22 to 16 in favor of the bill. Administration vote counters had predicted that most black lawmakers would not support the crime bill because of the death penalty expansion.

"Politically, I think the Democrats have recaptured this issue," Schumer said. "In campaign after campaign, the Republicans would attack Democrats as soft, mushy-headed and uninterested in fighting crime. After this bill, they can't." Democrats overwhelmingly supported the bill, 219 to 34.

The legislation followed an odd course. An omnibus bill sponsored by Brooks was disassembled into single issue bills that were passed last fall, only to be repackaged with the prevention programs and other provisions this spring.

Schumer predicted the most significant differences with the Senate would be whether to retain the crime prevention funds in the House bill and an assault weapons ban in the Senate's. The House has yet to vote on an assault weapons ban, although a vote is planned within the next several weeks.

A House Judiciary committee aide predicted final action on the crime bill by both chambers by Memorial Day.

The House yesterday passed a crime bill for $27.9 billion over five years, comparable to $22.3 billion legislation the Senate approved last November. A House-Senate conference will be named to resolve differences between the two versions.

..................................... HOUSE ............. SENATE

............................. (in billions) ...... (in billions)

Police ............................... $3.9 ............... $8.9

to hire: .................. 50,000 officers............ 100,000

Prisons, boot camps .................. 14.1 ................ 6.0

Drug rehab in prison ................. 0.45 ................ 0.3

Drug courts .......................... 1.4 ................. 0.9

Crime prevention ..................... 6.6 ................. 3.8

Other ................................ 1.45 ................ 2.4

TOTAL .............................. $27.9 ............... $22.3

Death penalties imposed for: .... 65 crimes .......... 50 crimes

Assault weapons ............... None banned .......... 19 banned