The Senate, a place of strange and magisterial customs, decided today that hate crimes legislation was, temporarily at least, more important than the F-22 debate, putting one of the most important national defense debates for years on hold.
No one here doubts that the F-22 amendment will be voted on or that the Senate will probably pass a defense authorization bill before the end of next week, but Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain-- the top two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee -- clearly face very serious opposition to getting the amendment through.
Several experienced Ill watchers said they thought the F-22 amendment should restart no later than Tuesday and might get on its way before then. A senior congressional aide expects the full defense authorization bill – after they get through the more than 60 amendments that have been submitted – to pass by the end of next week.
Sen. Levin argued on the Senate floor this morning that "the question is whether or not in the Levin-McCain amendment, whether or not we are right, that the leadership of our military-- both civilian and uniform -- made a sound judgment when they... determined we should end the production of the F-22."
McCain was more forthright in his objections to the hate crime bill usurping the F-22 amendment. The defense authorization act "has no place for it," he said of the hate crimes bill. "It shouldn't be there."