Sunday, October 11, 2009

Alaska Congressman Don Young Votes Yes On H.R. 2647 Despite The Expansion Of Hate Crimes Protection To Gays Embedded Within

In a story receiving virtually no media coverage within Alaska, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 281-146 to pass a revised version of H.R. 2647 on October 8th, 2009. The bill previously passed in the House on June 25th, but the Senate approved its own version on July 23rd, necessitating another House vote on the Senate's changes. On the surface, the measure was a $680 billion defense authorization bill, described in greater detail HERE. But embedded within was a measure, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which extends Federal hate crime protection to gays and transgenders; you can read this portion of it HERE. The vote split nearly along party lines. Of the 281 Yes votes, 237 were cast by Democrats and 44 by Republicans, while of the 146 No votes, 131 were cast by Republicans and 15 by Democrats. View the roll call vote HERE.

Among those Republicans voting Yes was Alaska's Very Own Congressman Don Young.

Congressman Young wasted little time posting an explanation on his official website. Unfortunately, his press release is sufficiently truncated to preclude cut and paste. In summary, Congressman Young voted Yes for two reasons; to ensure our troops receive the resources needed to do the job, and because of a number of provisions considered directly beneficial to Alaska, including the following:

-- Clear AFS: Power Plant Facility -- $24,300,000
-- Eielson AFB: Arctic Utilidor Phase I -- $9,900,000
-- Eielson AFB: Taxiway Lighting -- $3,450,000
-- Elmendorf AFB: Red Flag Alaska -- $3,100,000

Congressman Young chose to make no statement regarding the hate crimes portion of the bill, although he has a record as a social conservative and has no record of supporting expansion of hate crimes laws. VoteSmart indicates that on April 29th, 2009, Congressman Young voted against H.R. 1913, which would have expanded hate crime definitions; the measure passed nonetheless. Perhaps this is one reason why the Anchorage Daily Planet (the de facto successor to the old Voice Of The Times) condemned the passage of H.R. 2647 without criticizing Don Young by name.

Other reasons why criticism of Don Young may be muted is because the hate crimes bill does protect the right of people to criticize the practice of homosexuality, so we won't see Jerry Prevo hauled off in handcuffs anytime soon. In addition, Don Young's ability to "get goodies" for our state remains unsurpassed and is necessitated by Alaskans' schizophrenic attitude towards development. We want the financial benefits of development without assuming the risks. We continue to characterize the cruise industry and the oil industry as the enemy. As a result, cruise operators have pulled ships from Alaskan waters, and south central Alaska's ability to provide for its own energy needs during peak winter demand has become gravely jeopardized. If we want to become less dependent upon Federal largesse, we must declare Alaska open for business.

Consequently, while I disagree with the passage of H.R. 2647, I'm inclined to give Don Young a pass on his Yes vote, since a No vote on his part wouldn't have stopped passage.