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Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2004-Continued

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, as I understand, the amendment before the Senate is the State Department reauthorization legislation. I commend the Senator from Indiana and the Senator from Delaware for fashioning the reauthorization. It has not been done for a number of years, and I am very strong in support of that proposal. If the amendment of the Senator from Indiana is effective, we will lose the opportunity to have at least considered one of the very important amendments to the State Department reauthorization which dealt with hate crimes. I think it is entirely appropriate we have an opportunity to address the hate crimes issue on the State Department reauthorization because the State Department reauthorization obviously is dealing with foreign policy issues, and the origin of hate crimes is domestic terrorism. We have seen in recent times the growth of hate crimes in the United States. It is of significant importance. Hate crimes are not just crimes against an individual; they are crimes against a group in our society. They do not just do damage to an individual; they do something to our whole sense of community. That is why they are so treacherous. That is why they are so heinous. That is why they are so wrong.

We have seen the hate crimes that have taken place on the basis of race, and on the basis gender, and the basis of sexual orientation. Particularly the time of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Matthew Shephard, whose death in Wyoming was tragic. He had studied overseas and was fluent in Arabic and German before joining the Federal service.

Mr. President, crimes motivated by hate because of the victim's race, religion, sex, ethnic background, and disability are not confined to geographical boundaries of our great Nation. The current conflicts in the Middle East, the ethnic cleansing campaigns in Bosnia, Rwanda or the Holocaust itself demonstrate that violence motivated by hate is a worldwide danger. We have a special responsibility to combat it here at home.

Since the September 11th attacks, we have seen a shameful increase in the number of hate crimes committed against Muslim Americans, Sikh Americans, and Americans of Middle Eastern descent. Congress has done much to respond to the vicious attacks on September 11. We authorized the use of force against terrorists and those who harbor them in other lands. We have enacted legislation to provide aid to victims and their families, to strengthen airport security, to improve security of our borders, to strengthen our defenses against bioterrorism, and to give law enforcement and intelligence officers enhanced powers to investigate and prevent terrorism. But the one thing we have not done is to try to deal with the hate crimes issue.

We are prepared to vote on that. We are interested in half an hour time limitation, but we are told people have holds on that legislation. Members will refuse to let the Senate consider this legislation. I have indicated to the Senator from Indiana that I am prepared to permit and support the State Department reauthorization, but at least give us some opportunity to vote on hate crimes as a clean bill with a short time limit. We will take next week or the week after. We will even take a date in January or February of next year, but give us an opportunity to vote on hate crimes. The other side says no-not the Senator from Indiana-but the other side says no. So we are in a situation that says, well, let's circumvent or at least use the rules in such a way that will say we have two-thirds of the Senate that will permit him to use this reauthorization and effectively deny the Senate the opportunity to address the hate crimes issue. I don't fault the Senator from Indiana, but if this goes on, I am going to be there on the next amendment offering the hate crimes bill. Make no mistake about it. Make no mistake about it. We will have the opportunity and the time to take this up.

I might mention there are some other issues as well, including the issue of the minimum wage. Here we just increased our own salaries by $3,400 and we have not been given an opportunity to increase the minimum wage by 75 cents an hour for 2 years. We are denied that opportunity. We are excluded from that. We had that as an amendment to the State Department authorization and we were told we cannot have an hour to debate that.

Meanwhile, we see what is happening to the people at the lowest end of the economic ladder, primarily women.

Regarding the minimum wage, it is a women's issue because a majority of those receiving the minimum wage are women. It is a children's issue because one-third of the women who receive the minimum wage have children. It is a civil rights issue because a disproportionate number of the men and women who receive the minimum wage are men and women of color. And it is a fairness issue. In this country of ours, people who work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks, ought to have a living wage. But we are denied that opportunity. What is it about our Republican friends that they refuse to permit the Senate to go on record on these issues?

Now we are asked, let's have an exception. If we have an exception to this, we should face up to minimum wage, to hate crimes, and other issues. Fair is fair. I am for this legislation. It is up to the majority to set the agenda and give us an opportunity to vote on these issues and not deny a vote in the Senate in terms of hate crimes and minimum wage. They say no, no way, you are not going to get your opportunity.

I hope this amendment will not be accepted. I hope we can work this out with the majority leader. We have tried, we have tried, we have tried, and we have tried, but to no avail. Since it is of no avail and we do not have cooperation, there will be no alternative for me other than to offer the amendment.

I withhold the remainder of my time.

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