Hate Crimes Vote Divides House Republicans

Posted October 8, 2009 at 4:08pm

Most of a fragmented House Republican Conference voted Thursday to reject the 2010 Defense authorization conference report because of a hate crimes provision inserted by the Senate, in a vote that pitted the GOP’s pro-military image against its social conservative agenda.The bill passed 281-146, with 44 Republicans joining Democrats in favor.The vote divided the House Republican Conference leadership, splitting party leaders from Armed Services ranking member Howard McKeon (R-Calif.), who said in a statement he felt obligated to vote for funding for the troops.“I have consistently opposed the passage of hate crimes legislation and I continue to oppose it today,— McKeon said. “Unfortunately, congressional Democrats made the political decision to attach the hate crimes legislation to this bill.—Many of the Republicans that chose to vote for the conference report had close ties to the military or had voted for the hate crimes legislation previously.Although Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) said he was not actively whipping the vote, the Republican Conference was nevertheless forced to hold an emergency closed meeting to discuss the issue.“We don’t need to whip the fact that people are upset with the process, and there is unanimity in the fact that this has not been a process deserving of the people in this country,— Cantor said hours before the vote. During the emergency meeting, Cantor and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told members to feel free to “vote their districts— and said no one in the Conference should judge another Member’s decision, according to GOP sources. Boehner and Cantor both voted against the bill.McKeon and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) gave presentations in favor of the conference report during the closed-door meeting.Republicans who voted against the report said they resented the inclusion of the hate crimes legislation that they considered unconstitutional.The hate crimes bill would expand the definition of federal hate crimes to include attacks based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or mental or physical disabilities, and it easily passed the House in April.