35 in Congress back resolution condemning Clinton FALN clemency
September 8, 1999
Web posted at: 4:34 p.m. EDT (2034 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Thirty-five House members, all but one of them Republicans, are co-sponsoring a resolution denouncing President Bill Clinton's decision to offer clemency to 16 members of the Puerto Rican nationalist group FALN.
The resolution accuses Clinton of sending "an unmistakable message to terrorists that the United States does not punish terrorists in the most severe manner possible under the law, making terrorism more likely and endangering every American."
A decision on scheduling floor debate and a vote on the resolution -- which could be politically sensitive for Democrats who do not want to appear soft on terrorism -- will be made soon, according to a spokeswomen for House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas).
The resolution, introduced by Rep. Vito Fossella (R-New York), is co-sponsored by 33 other Republicans including GOP Whip Tom DeLay of Texas and caucus leader J.C. Watts of Oklahoma. The sole Democratic sponsor is Rep. James Traficant of Ohio.
The resolution is not binding and there are no constitutional steps Congress can take to block or overturn Clinton's clemency order, Fossella said at a news conference attended by a New York police detective injured in a 1982 bombing and the wife of a New Jersey businessman killed by a bomb in 1975.
Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by its Spanish initials FALN, is a group that promotes an independent Puerto Rico. It is blamed for 130 bombings, mostly in New York and Chicago in the 1970s and early 1980s.
None of the 16 at the heart of the clemency offer was convicted in any of the bombings. They were convicted on a variety of charges, ranging from bomb-making and conspiracy to armed robbery, and given sentences ranging from 35 to 90 years. The activists already have served between 14 to 19 years in prison.
The FALN controversy took another political turn over last weekend when first lady Hillary Clinton called on her husband to withdraw the clemency offer, saying the failure of the 16 to immediately accept the conditions suggested they were not prepared to renounce violence.
CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.