Senate GOP Leaders Prevent Hate Crimes Bill from Coming to Vote

An effort to allow the hate crimes bill to move to a vote failed in the Senate today. Senate GOP leaders urged their colleagues to refuse to bring the bill up for a vote and to insist on consideration of a series of amendments that they said would make the bill more palatable to House Republicans.

Last year a hate crimes bill passed both houses of Congress but was killed in conference committee by House GOP leaders.

"Too many Republican senators are willing to talk the hate crimes bill to death," said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. "Senators have been debating hate crimes legislation for years. The need is clear. The remedy is clear. It is way past time for the Senate to act."

Neas noted that even GOP senators Arlen Specter and John Ensign, who have consponsored the legislation, voted against allowing the bill to come to a vote. "It is especially disappointing that some of the bill’s cosponsors have given into the politics of obstructionism and partisanship practiced so effectively by Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott," said Neas.

The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 26th, 2001. The bill contains provisions of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act that passed in both Houses last year (S.625, H.R. 1343) and is sponsored by Sens. Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Rep. Conyers (D-MI).

The legislation would extend the federal government's ability to investigate or prosecute incidents of hate violence in two ways. First, it would extend the scope of prosecutable hate crimes based on race, religion, national origin and ethnicity to include those crimes perpetrated even when the victim is not engaged in a "federally protected activity." In addition, it would extend the scope of prosecutable hate crimes to include those based on gender, disability, and sexual orientation.

Neas vowed that People For the American Way would support efforts by the bill’s sponsors to break Senate GOP leaders’ blockade of hate crimes legislation and bring the bill up for a vote in this session of Congress.

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