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Hate Crimes Bill Pulled From Senate Floor

This week, the Senate began consideration of a bill (S. 625) that would expand federal hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation, and disability. However, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) pulled the measure from the floor when bill supporters could not garner the 60 votes necessary to cut off debate. On June 11, the Senate defeated a cloture motion by a vote of 54-43. Sen. Daschle stated that the Senate would return to the bill later this year.

Sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), the bill would authorize federal technical, forensic, and prosecutorial assistance to states in the investigation and prosecution of crimes motivated by race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Under S. 625, the federal government could not prosecute a case unless the U.S. Attorney General certifies that there is reasonable cause that the crime was motivated by hate and that the state either does not have jurisdiction over the crime, has requested federal assistance, or does not object to federal prosecution. Individuals found guilty of a federal hate crime would be subject to life in prison if death results from the offense.

During the 106th Congress, the Senate-passed FY2001 defense authorization bill and the Senate-passed FY1999 Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill included similar hate crimes provisions. However, the language was dropped from both bills during House-Senate conferences.

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