Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) came out swinging today against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for offering the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill.
The Arizona senator said on the floor today that he was “deeply, deeply disappointed” by Reid for introducing the legislation to the defense bill and questioned the majority leader’s motives.
“(Americans) don’t deserve to have a hate crimes bill put on this legislation that has no relation to hate crimes,” McCain said on the floor.
But trying to attach the hate crimes bill to the defense bill is nothing new. Backers of the hate crimes legislation have tried to attach it to the annual defense authorization bill since 1999, but it was always taken out before a final vote on the defense legislation. The National Defense Authorization Bill must pass Congress each year to fund the Defense Department programs.
Most Republicans are against the hate crimes legislation, saying state laws already cover hate crimes and it could criminalize religious opposition to homosexuality.
The legislation — named after murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard — would expand federal hate crimes law to include crimes based on sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity. Attorney General Eric Holder called on Congress last month to pass hate crimes legislation.
Reid filed for cloture on the amendment this morning, but it is unclear whether a vote will happen on the legislation tomorrow.
“For the last decade, Matthew Shepard’s name associated with hate crimes,” Reid said at a news conference yesterday. “Once this bill passes, it will be associated with justice.”
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