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Blunt, three others in Mo GOP vote against defense bill because of "hate crimes" provision

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 8, 2009 - U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, today announced that he will vote against this year's National Defense Authorization Bill "because it contains controversial and unconstitutional 'hate crimes' policy completely unrelated to the defense of the country."

Blunt noted that it's the first time he has ever voted against a defense-authorization bill. 

Joining Blunt were U.S. Reps. Todd Akin, R-Town and Country; Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, and Sam Graves, R-Tarkio. 

“Creating a new classification of prosecutions based on thought compromises the very freedoms our service men and women fight to protect,” Blunt said in a statement. “It’s absolutely indefensible that the Defense Authorization Bill, which should fund our troops, is instead being used as a vehicle for controversial social policy.”

In his floor speech, Blunt said that he wanted to make clear that he did want criminals "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law; victims should be protected to the fullest extent of the law....To use this bill in this way is a step in the wrong direction."

But another Missouri Republican, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of St. Elizabeth, announced that he voted for the authorization bill despite his similar objections.

“We must support our military men and women who are putting their lives on the line to defend our nation and our freedoms, and we must remain committed to the fight against terrorist regimes that seek to destroy our way of life,” Luetkemeyer said. “Despite political games by the (Democratic) majority that includes a divisive non-defense related measure tacked onto the bill, I supported this legislation because our men and women in uniform are my top priority.”

UPDATE: The Missouri Democratic Party attacked, Blunt, Emerson, Akin and Graves for their decision to vote against the defense bill. The party accused the four Republicans of choosing "politics over principle" by opposing "a bill that includes key funding for America’s military."

It noted that Luetkemeyer was among 44 other Republicans who supported the legislation.

"In the past, Congressman Blunt and Republican leaders criticized Democrats for similar actions," the state Democratic Party said in a statement. "In 2007, Blunt expressed impatience with Democrats over a defense spending bill. At the time, Congressman Blunt criticized Democrats for what he claimed were possible attempts to further 'delay the delivery of these vital funds for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.' (Washington Times 3/6/07) "

Still, the stance of Blunt and his Republican allies in Congress will likely win them points with Republican social conservatives, who oppose such hate-crimes provisions on the grounds that they view such measures as improperly creating special protections for gays, minorities and others.

In Blunt's case, some conservatives also have been leery of him over other matters, notably his role in approving heightened government spending under former President George W. Bush. Blunt sought to counter some of that criticism this week by blasting the Obama administration's economic-stimulus spending, saying that has not led to job creation.

The congressman also continued to be a leader of the GOP opposition to various Democratic health care proposals. On Wednesday, he asserted that Democrats were relying too much on cuts in Medicare, the health care program for the elderly.

And, as always, Blunt has linked the Democratic policies in the White House and Congress to Missouri's only announced Democrat for the U.S. Senate, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

"We must change course now, and count first on the creativity and hard work of the American people and free enterprise. We need tax relief that puts more money in the hands of consumers and small businesses, which is where new hiring always begins," Blunt said.

"Other than endorsing the first Obama 'stimulus' and a Cap and Tax proposal, Robin Carnahan has been silent on jobs, the economy and other issues that are important to Missouri and America...."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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