Senate Republicans thwarted passage of legislation yesterday that would strengthen federal hate crime laws and broaden them to include offenses motivated by gender, sexual orientation and disabilities. Senate Democrats pulled the legislation (S 625) off the floor after a cloture vote aiming to move the bill ahead failed by 54 to 43 – 60 votes were needed to force action. “Senate Republicans made clear that they will not take action to fight terrorism at home,” co-sponsor Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), told the Associated Press. “Today’s vote is a clear sign of the lack of commitment by Senate Republicans on this basic civil rights issue.”
All but four Republicans voted against limiting debate on the bill, saying that Democrats did not allow enough time to make amendments. Senate Democrats claim that the 40 to 50 amendments planned by Republicans on issues ranging from human cloning to defense authorization were meant to kill the bill. The bill has passed the Senate twice in the past three years, but has failed in the House twice in recent years. Despite this latest defeat, however, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) vowed yesterday to bring the bill back to the Senate floor.