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Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, today I will cast my vote against the fiscal year 2010 Defense authorization bill. It is a step I take with some reluctance, as there are programs of merit authorized in this conference report.
I take this position because the majority has seen fit to attach unrelated hate crimes legislation. This controversial social policy has nothing to do with defense policy or our global war on terror. Instead, the majority has chosen to evade open committee hearings and debate on controversial social policy by pairing it with this legislation. In my view, all violent crime is malicious or hateful, and all victims suffer regardless of the motive of the criminal. I am also mindful of the concerns of the many Kentuckians who contacted me with their views that hate-crimes laws will lead to an expansion of Federal authority that could chill many forms of speech, including religious expression, that are protected by the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
There is much that is good in this year's Defense authorization bill, reflecting policies that I strongly support. For example, the bill authorizes a 3.4 percent pay increase for our military personnel; includes a number of bonuses and special pay provisions; contains favorable TRICARE provisions; and continues support for the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. It also includes a measure to make it easier for members of the military to vote. Further, it authorizes many worthwhile Kentucky appropriations projects that I have been proud to support.
Were the conference report not burdened with the unnecessary and ill-advised hate crimes legislation I would have supported it as I have consistently done in prior years. I am hopeful that the majority's effort with regard to hate crimes does not presage future legislative shortcuts on matters of national importance.
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