Dallas President Clinton accused Republican congressional leaders Wednesday of deliberately ducking his long-languishing hate-crimes legislation because they fear it would split the GOP base.
"If it doesn't get to be law, it's because the leadership doesn't want it," Clinton said during a luncheon fund-raiser here with gay Democrats. He noted that, in light of a spate of hate crimes in recent years, the bill is supported by more Americans and by a majority of lawmakers in both parties.
Clinton was in Texas to help raise money for his party and to attend a "Texas Tribute" in his honor. The three events he attended Wednesday were meant to raise $1.5 million for Democratic candidates.
Before leaving for Texas, Clinton said Congress' GOP leaders thwarted the hate- crimes bill because they are worried that its provisions covering gays and lesbians might anger the GOP's conservative core. "I think they think it will split their base or something," Clinton said. "I just hope and pray we can do it. If we can't do it, what does that Senate vote mean? Was it just some stunt?," he asked, referring to the Senate's 57-42 vote in favor of hate-crimes provisions in June.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., denounced Clinton's remarks as "demagoguery at its worst."
The anti-hate-crimes bill would define crimes against gays in much the same way as racially motivated crime.