Public Papers - 1991 - November
Letter to Congressional Leaders on the Crime Bill
Since March, I have been calling on the Congress to pass a tough crime bill that will remove the handcuffs from law enforcement and end needless delays in the criminal justice system. For too long, the scales of justice have been tipped in favor of criminals instead of law-abiding Americans. The American people want a crime bill that will make the system tougher on criminals than it is on law enforcement and crime victims.
After months of delay, the Congress is now presented with a conference report drafted in the last hours of this session. Once again, just as they did last year, Democrat conferees from the Senate and House have demonstrated that they are willing to overlook the will of their colleagues and the American people. Clearly, the American people deserve better.
The crime bill produced by the Democrat-controlled conference is unacceptable. The bill rejects many of the primary goals the Administration set forth as necessary for an acceptable crime bill. One essential goal of our proposal is to end frivolous post-appeal challenges brought by convicted criminals, particularly death row inmates, through meaningful habeas corpus reform. By overturning critical Supreme Court decisions that have reduced the abuse of habeas corpus, the conference bill actually weakens current law by expanding a criminal's ability to frustrate the system.
Another goal of the Administration's bill is to ensure that criminals do not go free on legal technicalities when a police officer is acting in good faith. This conference report does just the opposite. Again, it retreats from current law by throwing out court decisions that recognize the legitimacy of such a good faith exception to the exclusionary rule.
Finally, although this bill purports to permit imposition of the death penalty for several new Federal offenses, it adopts procedures that virtually ensure the death penalty will never be imposed.
I will not accept any effort by the Congress to turn the clock back on the progress we have made in the courts on criminal justice reform. If this bill is presented to me, I will veto it and insist that Congress pass a crime bill that will strengthen our criminal justice system.
Note: Identical letters were sent to Robert H. Michel, House Republican Leader, and Robert Dole, Senate Republican Leader.