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Hate crime legislation cruises through House

The House voted by a wide margin Wednesday in favor of hate crime legislation that would protect gays as well as other targeted groups.

The vote means that a solid majority in both chambers has advocated expanding federal jurisdiction to include violent crimes committed on the basis of race, religion, color, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity or disability. The vote was 232-192, with 41 Republicans joining 191 Democrats in supporting the motion, which instructed House negotiators to accept language attached to the annual Defense Department authorization bill.

President Clinton has told congressional leaders he is determined to enact hate crime legislation before he leaves office.

Vote clears path for China trade bill

WASHINGTON _ U.S. relations with China stood on the verge of a new era as the Senate neared completion of a bill to make normal trade relations permanent.

The last major barrier to smooth passage of the trade bill was cleared Wednesday when the Senate defeated an amendment toughening sanctions on China and other countries that traffic in weapons of mass destruction. The vote was 65-32 against it.

"Today we have cleared the final hurdle and moved one step closer to enacting one of the most important pieces of legislation in a generation for U.S.-China relations," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a chief sponsor of the bill.

NATIONAL GUARD: The Army for the first time will align National Guard divisions with active-duty Army corps, making it more likely that part-time soldiers will ship out if war erupts in Korea or the Persian Gulf, Army officials said Wednesday. The change reflects Army leaders' search for ways to make better use of the National Guard at a time when the force is stretched thin by a variety of missions.

TAX BREAKS: Rushing to head off European Union trade sanctions, the House passed legislation Wednesday to set up about $4.1-billion in new tax breaks for U.S. companies that would replace a system invalidated by the World Trade Organization. The vote was 315-109 to send the bill to the Senate, which is expected to follow suit quickly.

BOY SCOUTS: The House came down solidly behind the Boy Scouts Wednesday with a 362-12 vote against a proposal to revoke their eight-decade-old federal charter because of the scouting organization's policy of excluding gays. Republicans, who brought the legislation to the House floor to show the lack for support for critics of the Scouts, labeled it an attack on American values.

REAGAN MONUMENT: A plan to build a monument to former President Ronald Reagan on the National Mall between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial was approved Wednesday by the House Resources Committee. The bill now goes to the full House.

MLK MONUMENT: A San Francisco architectural firm won the competition Wednesday to design a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall. An international panel of jurors picked ROMA Design Group. from among 900 submissions for the four-acre site not far from the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

CLINTON DISBARMENT: President Clinton's disbarment case probably won't be heard by an Arkansas judge before the president leaves office on Jan. 20, the judge's law clerk said. Judge Leon Johnson has a full docket and won't make any special effort to squeeze in a Clinton hearing sooner, clerk Chantel Mullen said.

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