In the first major expansion of the law in more than 40 years, the Democratic-controlled House pass a long-debated bill to broaden the federal hate-crime law to cover violence against homosexuals. The measure, which is expected to go before the Senate within days, had faced a veto threat from President George W. Bush, but it has President Obama’s support. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said that Obama looked forward to signing the bill. “As the President said back in April, the hate-crimes bill takes on an important civil rights issue to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association,” he said. A version passed the Senate in July by a filibuster-proof 63-28 vote, so its passage this time seems certain. House passage was assured by attaching the measure to a $680-billion defense policy bill, which included a 3.4% pay increase for the military and authorization for the development of a new engine for the next-generation jet fighter, among other items. The measure passed by a vote of 281 to 146, with Republicans complaining that they had been put in the politically awkward position of voting against a defense bill, but Democrats were exultant. “It’s a very exciting day for us here in the Capitol,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), noting that she has pushed for expanding the law since her arrival in Congress 22 years ago. “What makes these crimes so bad is they are not just crimes against individuals; they are crimes against entire communities,” Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat who is gay, said during the debate.