Politics An Asian American hate crimes bill presents a rare opening for bipartisanship
Police, communities across U.S. fight back against anti-Asian hate crimes
Police, communities across U.S. fight back against anti-Asian hate crimesSAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - More than a dozen San Jose, California, police officers walked through the white arches of the Grand Century Mall in "Little Saigon" to reassure a Vietnamese-American community fearful over the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States.
Senate Democrats on Wednesday are putting forth a key test on the limits of Republican obstruction: A bill aimed at combating anti-Asian hate crimes.
, which is relatively narrow in scope, would designate a Justice Department official to review Covid-19 related hate crimes, and calls on the agency to provide reporting guidance for regional law enforcement bodies.
It’s a pretty limited bill, meant to signal the federal government’s commitment to, who have faced increased racist violence over the past year. But a vote on it could also have broader effects: If Republicans block it, that would provide more fodder to Democrats looking to build a case for eliminating the filibuster, and suggest the GOP is unwilling to condemn anti-Asian racism outright.
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Conversely, the bill could also offer a rare opening for bipartisanship: In fact, the No Hate Act, an even stronger piece of legislation aimed at improving hate crimes reporting, has both Democratic and Republican support, and could get added as an amendment.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), a chief sponsor of the legislation, spoke about the impacthave had on her during a press conference on Tuesday. “As an [Asian American and Pacific Islander] person, it does give me pause,” she said. “Before, when I was walking around outside, I would have my earbuds on and I’d be listening to books on tape. I would never do that now.”
The first vote to watch on this bill will be a procedural one. Before lawmakers consider the actual legislation itself, they will vote on a motion to proceed to it. Where Republicans land on this vote will be telling: If 10 GOP lawmakers don’t join the 50-person Democratic caucus to overcome this hurdle, then the legislation is effectively dead. However, if the support is there for this particular motion — which would open up debate on the legislation — lawmakers could actually work together and even strengthen the bill, potentially teeing it up for bipartisan passage.
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Republicans, including, notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have signaled an openness to weighing the bill and discussing amendments, an indication that the legislation is likely to make it past the procedural vote and get floor consideration, though it’s still not guaranteed final passage.
Depending on how things shake out, this could be a unique opportunity for bipartisanship — while also serving as a chance for the Senate to send a resounding message denouncing anti-Asian hate.
The Senate’s hate crimes bill and a possible bipartisan amendment, briefly explained
The Senate’s hate crimes bill is quite reserved: By allocating someone to the Justice Department who specifically focuses on Covid-19-related hate crimes, it would bolster the agency’s focus on tracking and prosecuting such incidents, which is important, but not exactly a sweeping change.
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According to a global anti-harassment organization, only 25% of people surveyed said that someone intervened when they were being harassed.And those are just the statistics; accounts of the events themselves are even more chilling. On March 31, a man who was on lifetime parole for fatally stabbing his mother in 2002 was arrested on two charges of assault in the second degree after repeatedly stomping on and kicking a 65-year-old Filipino American woman in New York City in broad daylight.
The bill also pushes for better guidance from the DOJ for city and state law enforcement when it comes to online hate crimes reporting, and public education campaigns that help potential victims connect to resources. Additionally, the legislation urges Attorney General Merrick Garland and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to ensure that discriminatory language, like “China virus,” isn’t used to address the pandemic.
Despite its limited approach, the bill could help raise the profile of this issue. “One of the greatest barriers to effective handling of hate crimes is resources,” says Brendan Lantz, director of the Hate Crime Research and Policy Institute at Florida State University. “If this additional review translates to additional resources and guidance, it has the potential to make a difference.”
In prioritizing this legislation, Democrats are also making an important point about the need to unequivocally call out anti-Asian hate, as incidents targeting Asian Americans have surged in the past year following the Trump administration’s decision to use racist language to describe the coronavirus and its origins.has received nearly 3,800 reports of such incidents, though it’s important to note that some of them likely wouldn’t meet current federal standards to be classified as hate crimes.
Senate Democrats play hide the ball with new hate crime bill
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has assured Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, that her COVID-19 hate crime bill, S. 937, will be a top Senate priority this month, even though not a single Republican senator will endorse it. So, what’s the GOP’s beef with the bill? © Provided by Washington Examiner Ostensibly, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act seeks to address the rise of hate crimes and violence targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
In the last few months, shootings in Georgia,, as well as videos capturing brutal attacks on Asian American elders, have renewed focus on this issue as well.
“There has never been a situation in my lifetime when I have felt this level of fear, of vulnerability, than I do right now,” Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) recently said.
If senators vote successfully to proceed to the bill, one of the amendments that has bipartisan support is the, sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already backed the measure, according to an aide, and some Republicans have indicated a willingness to support it as well, because they feel hate crime reporting is currently unsatisfactory. for a number of reasons, including lack of trust in law enforcement.
The No Hate Act would make reporting options more robust by including grant money for local and state law enforcement agencies to set up hotlines for hate crimes, and provide better training around hate crime tracking. It would also push for offenders who are convicted to serve out community service and educational courses related to the community affected.
Hirono: Anti-Asian hate bill chance for Senate to 'take a stand'
Democratic Sen. Maize Hirono said on ABC's "The View" Monday that an anti-Asian hate bill is a chance for the Senate to "take a stand." "At a time when the Asian America Pacific Islander community feels under siege and vulnerable, this is a bill that enables the Senate at least, and I know followed by the House, to take a stand and say these kinds of unprovoked attacks targeting Asian Americans are totally unacceptable," Hirono told the hosts of ABC's "The View.
“The No Hate Act would improve reporting on hate crimes and promote a better, community-centered response to such incidences,” says Becky Monroe, the senior director of the Fighting Hate and Bias program at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Both the bill as currently written and the No Hate Act are unlikely to fully address the root causes of hate crimes, though they could provide a more complete picture of how many people are being affected, helping to better combat them.
“Education, public messaging — particularly from elected officials — and other community-based programs aimed at reconciliation and repair are more likely to reduce the incidents of hate crimes,” says Columbia University law professor Katherine Franke. These incremental changes, meanwhile, could help provide context for the scale of the problem.
Republicans have a choice to make
This vote is the first in a series that Senate Democrats have planned for this spring, and could reveal how much Republicans intend to obstruct important Democratic priorities. Other notable votes on the docket include one on the Democrats’ sweeping voting rights bill, HR 1, and additional ones on gun control and immigration reform.
Whether Republicans reject the hate crimes legislation could be a sign of just how intent they are on blocking Democratic measures regardless of the issue: Some Republicans have suggested this bill could be a federal overreach that puts pressure on states to comply with reporting requirements.
“I’d love to see a bipartisan result here. But in some ways it goes too far, in our view,”.
Others, meanwhile, note that this is a subject area where both parties could actually work together to advance some reforms. “I’m trying to see if we can’t get this resolved and take this up tomorrow,” Moran told the Washington Post’s Paul Kane on Tuesday.
Democrats are watching this vote and others upcoming keenly, as the debate over the filibuster continues: Because of this procedural relic, if lawmakers from the minority party opt to block a bill, it will need 60 votes to pass — a near-impossible threshold for Democrats to meet on priorities like the $15 minimum wage, in a 50-50 Senate.
This bill — depending on how it’s treated — could offer more ammunition for Democrats who have been arguing for doing away with the filibuster, or, interestingly, provide a chance for Republicans and Democrats to actually agree on a piece of legislation.
Senate Votes to Combat Hate Crimes After Asian-American Attacks .
The Senate passed by an overwhelming margin legislation designed to combat hate crimes in the U.S., as lawmakers united to respond after a sharp increase in attacks against Asian-Americans since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. © Bloomberg Demonstrators hold signs during a National Day of Action rally in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, March 27, 2021. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, attacks against Asian Americans have skyrocketed with pressure mounting on U.S. institutions from corporate America to the White House to take action against Asian American hate.