Today Nancy Pelosi is expected to announce a postponement of the final vote on the defense funding authorization bill to which the Matthew Shepard (hate crimes) Act is attached. The Out Of Iraq Caucus, a group of as many as 20 gay-supportive Democrats, are threatening to vote against the act because it would provide funding for President Bush to continue the war. Additionally, the majority of Republican reps and some conservative Democrats have said they will also vote against the bill unless the hate crimes provision is removed.
The House passed a freestanding version of the hate crimes measure before the Senate passed its version. House Democratic leaders indicated then that they would agree to keep the Shepard bill as part of the DOD authorization measure.
But that strategy appeared to be unraveling on Wednesday when House Democrats belonging to the Out of Iraq Caucus said they would vote against the defense authorization bill unless new language was added to curtail the president’s ability to continue the war.
If the current version of the DOD authorization bill unravels, Congress will likely vote to extend spending levels approved in the previous DOD authorization bill. Eventually a new DOD authorization bill will have to be passed, but it’s unknown if the hate crimes amendment would be carried over in the bill or if a new version will be drafted from scratch.
On the ENDA front, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he does not believe the Senate will have time to consider ENDA this year.