Senate passes hate crimes bill – but jet controversy could kill it

Here’s the good news for the ADL and other Jewish groups that have fought for it for than a decade: the Senate today passed a new hate crimes bill expanding coverage of existing statutes to include, among others, gays and lesbians. The House already passed the measure.

“When an individual is harmed simply because of his or her identity, it harms our communities and entire nation,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), which was first out of the starting gate with a press release.  “This legislation would clearly demonstrate that our government is committed to securing dignity for all people in our nation.”

Here’s the bad news: it’s attached to a defense authorization bill that could attract a presidential veto for reasons having nothing to do with the hate crimes language.

The problem: the Senate version includes funding for the F-22 fighter, which President Obama and the Pentagon want to kill, but which lawmakers can’t let go of because components of the expensive jet are built in dozens of states.

President Obama, who supports the hate crimes provision, has promised to veto any defense bill that includes more F-22 funding as part of his effort to curb runaway military spending.  Also, the different House and Senate versions have to be reconciled, which is always a good opportunity for removing controversial elements.

This has to be one of the longest-running legislative battles in Jewish political history – and as they say, it’s not over until it’s over.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.