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Cloture Vote in Hate Crimes Bill

June 11, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Supporters of legislation that would give federal hate crime protections to homosexuals and the disabled say a procedural vote might be the most important one they cast on the bill.

Senators were scheduled to vote Tuesday on invoking cloture, which would limit debate and amendments on the hate crimes bill. That would stop detractors from adding to the legislation unrelated provisions that probably would kill it, said Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore.

``The most important vote of the week is the cloture vote,″ Smith said. ``Once cloture is invoked, no amendments can be added, and I know it is the strategy of many opponents of this bill to add unrelated amendments, and we’re going to have to vote against those, no matter how attractive they may be.″

It takes 60 senators to limit debate and force a vote on the bill. The Senate has 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one independent member, Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont. Supporters, many of whom are Democrats, said Monday they were close to getting the votes they needed.

The bill would add crimes motivated by sex, sexual orientation and disability to the list of offenses already covered under a 1968 federal law banning discrimination against groups. It would allow federal prosecutors to pursue a hate-crime case if local authorities were to refuse to press charges.

Some Republican senators see problems with the bill and say amendments and debate could fix it.

``All victims of violent crime should be equal in the eyes of the law,″ said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. ``When such a crime occurs, the police should not first have to ask, for example, what is the victim’s race or religion or sexual preference?″

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he believes that the Supreme Court will find the bill an invasion of states’ rights. ``We know that (the bill) as written has no chance of enactment,″ Hatch said. ``It simply has too many problems. Instead of having a political issue, we should take a realistic and responsible step toward addressing this problem, which would be passing my version of this legislation.″

The Republican-controlled House probably will ignore the bill again, as it did in 1999 and 2000. In that case, Senate supporters probably will try to attach the bill to an authorization bill, such as the one for the Defense Department, in an attempt to force it through.

___

The bill number is S. 625.

On the Net: Bill text: http://thomas.loc.gov

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