Democrats urge GOP to support passage of anti-Asian American hate crime bill this week

Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY
·3 min read

WASHINGTON – Democratic lawmakers are urging Republicans to get on board with legislation that aims to combat hate crimes against Asian Americans and strengthen hate crime reporting.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a news conference Tuesday that the Senate would bring up the bill this week on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which was introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.

"People need to feel empowered to come forward and report these incidents. We need to make that process easier and more accessible," said Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., a sponsor of the bill.

The bill would expedite the Justice Department's review of hate crimes as the Asian American community has seen an increase in incidents during the coronavirus pandemic. It also would task the department with coordinating with local law enforcement groups and community-based organizations to facilitate and raise awareness about hate crime reporting.

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President Joe Biden has also urged Congress to take action on discrimination and hate crimes against Asian Americans. Last month, six women of Asian descent were killed by a shooter in Georgia.

Hundreds of people gather in Atlanta, Ga. on Saturday, Mar. 20, 2021 to protest the killing of eight people, six of them Asian, in Atlanta area massage businesses shootings on March 16, and the increasing violence toward Asian people in the country.
Hundreds of people gather in Atlanta, Ga. on Saturday, Mar. 20, 2021 to protest the killing of eight people, six of them Asian, in Atlanta area massage businesses shootings on March 16, and the increasing violence toward Asian people in the country.

But with 60 votes required to bring the legislation to a full vote for passage in the Senate, Democrats might be facing a filibuster if not enough Republicans back the legislation in the evenly divided chamber.

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Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., said this is a historic moment for Congress to shape how members of the Asian American community are treated for decades to come.

"This has been one of the most difficult months of my life, a month where I've gathered with the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) community all over the country, and we shared the rawness, the vulnerabilities, the fear that we all collectively experience," Kim said. "There has never been a situation during my lifetime that I've felt this level of fear and this level of vulnerability and also a level of isolation that I do right now."

Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday that they are working on garnering bipartisan support for the measure and are open to amendments "germane" to the question.

Some Republicans have said they don't believe the legislation is necessary. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she was concerned about the linkage of COVID-19 to hate crimes reporting, something Schumer said could be addressed.

A bipartisan amendment filed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., could be added to the legislation if Republicans do not block it, Schumer said.

The Blumenthal-Moran No Hate Act would encourage more training on hate crimes for law enforcement, establish hate crime hotlines and allow for a "rehabilitation" effort for perpetrators of hate crimes.

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A vote on whether to open up the bill to debate in the Senate is set for Wednesday, and 10 Republicans would need to vote to proceed for any bipartisan amendment to the Hirono legislation to go forward.

"What can be so controversial about a voluntary reporting by the states of these kinds of crimes?" Hirono asked on Tuesday. "One would hope that there would be universal condemnation… against this kind of targeted hate crime."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Democrats seek Republican support on anti-Asian American hate crime bill