Debate over Iraq War strategy keeps senators tied up
Supporters of the Matthew Shephard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act saw their hopes for a quick vote on the measure in the Senate dashed yet again this week, as debate over the Iraq War once again sidelined the measure.
Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon, filed the bill on July 11 as an amendment for consideration to the Department of Defense reauthorization bill. They had hoped the tactic would get a vote on the hate crimes act by the end of last week.
But wrangling over other details of the DOD bill kept that from happening. And this week, disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over the Levin-Reed Amendment, which would set a deadline of next spring for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, delayed the hate crimes vote once again.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid temporarily suspended consideration of the DOD reauthorization bill and with it, the hate crimes act after the Levin-Reed Amendment failed.
This development could mean there will be no vote on the hate crimes bill before Congress’ August recess, according to Allison Herwitt, legislative director with the Human Rights Campaign.
Still, Herwitt said, supporters are optimistic that the bill, passed by the House earlier this year, will eventually be approved in the Senate.
“Our Congressional allies including Senate leadership remain committed to getting a vote on hate crimes this year,” Herwitt said. “Sens. Kennedy and Smith continue to look for ways to advance this crucial legislation.
“We can use this delay to energize and mobilize our grassroots advocacy to strengthen support for hate crimes,” she added. “We encourage everyone to keep up the momentum to make the upcoming vote as strong as possible.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 13, 2007