Posted on Dec 11, 2007

Yesterday House and Senate negotiators stopped a measure to expand hate-crime protections by removing it from a Pentagon policy bill now likely to pass both chambers with ease. The bill would have extended hate-crime protections to victims based on gender, sexual orientation or disability.

Negotiations on the defense authorization bill had bogged down, with House Democratic leaders worried that they did not have enough votes to pass the bill if it included the hate-crime measure. After the House formally balked at voting on the provision in a conference meeting, Senate Democrats vowed to bring up the measure again next year.

"At a time when our ideals are under attack by terrorists in other lands, it is more important than ever to demonstrate that we practice what we preach, and that we are doing all we can to root out the bigotry and prejudice in our own country that leads to similar violence here at home," Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the sponsor of the hate-crime bill, said in a statement.


"After more than 10 years and several successful bipartisan votes, it is heartbreaking to fall short this close to the finish line," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.


The House had already approved the hate-crime measure, but the Senate has not been able to move it as a free-standing measure, leading to Kennedy's attaching it to the defense authorization bill in September. The White House and congressional Republicans balked at attaching non-military issues to the defense bill, which sets policy issues and authorizes certain weapons programs.


House Democrats already faced a loss of support from many liberals in their caucus who would not support the Pentagon policy bill because it did not include withdrawal timeline provisions for the Iraq war. Now, without the hate-crime measure, the defense authorization will probably be approved easily, with a large number of Republicans in both chambers supporting it.

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