Senate Democrats are forcing a vote today to limit debate on a bill that would provide federal assistance to states and local authorities prosecuting hate crimes. This bill (S 625) would also expand the federal definition of hate crimes to include those motivated by a person’s gender, sexual orientation or disability and would apply regardless of when or where a hate crime is committed.
Senate Democrats are bringing the bill to a cloture vote in an effort to stave off Republican attempts to kill the bill with 40 to 50 amendments on issues ranging from human cloning to defense authorization. “Everybody is going to say they’re against hate crimes,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT). “But if we’re against them, then let’s pass laws that give our law enforcement the teeth to go after hate crimes. Let’s not go through the fiction of trying to amend this bill to death.”
Republicans have admonished Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) for bringing up the hate crimes bill when the nation is at war and the defense authorization measure (S 2514) is waiting in the wings. However, Republican Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, one of the bill’s most outspoken supporters, told Capitol Spotlight that the nation’s war on international terrorism shouldn’t block efforts to protect individuals from “domestic terrorism.”