The Senate has approved legislation to strengthen law enforcement to protect Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders from hate crimes, capping nearly two weeks of talks between Democrats and Republicans.
With the bill’s approval, there was a rare moment of bipartisan unity in a time when party divisions had grown more bitter.
By a 94-1 vote, the bill passed the evenly divided Senate, which needed 60 votes to pass. The only Republican senator who voted no was Missouri’s, Josh Hawley.
“During today’s voting on the anti-Asian hate crimes bill, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “The Senate can work when given a chance to do so,” he said.
It will proceed to the House of Representatives, where it will be led by Democrat Grace Meng of New York, where it is expected to pass. The bill will be sent to President Biden after it passes the House. After a shooting that left several women of Asian descent dead in March in Georgia, Biden urged approval of hate crimes legislation.
Mazie Hirono’s bill, introduced in the Senate by a Hawaii Democrat, saw a breakthrough with Republicans on Wednesday. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine led the effort to expand the bill’s scope to cover hate crimes that arose due to the outbreak.
“I have worked closely with Senator Collins on changes to the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act that will broaden support for the legislation without compromising the act’s core purpose to combat anti-Asian hatred,” Hirono said in a statement following the breakthrough.
Despite this, the legislation does note that in the period ended Feb. 28 of the year, about 3,800 instances of discrimination and hate crimes have occurred in the country.
“Collins emphasized that crimes based on a bias against a race, national origin, or any other characteristic cannot be tolerated. “In addition to denouncing those crimes, our amendment marshals additional resources to tackle and stop them.”
In recent days, Republicans have been engaged in a debate over amendments they can offer up for a floor vote before Thursday’s final vote. There were about 20 lawsuits filed, Hirono said, and many had nothing to do with the bill.
All three GOP amendments failed to garner 60 votes needed on Thursday, but eventually, the parties voted on them.
“According to Schumer, “we have seen too many times how our president has encouraged forces of hatred and bigotry over the past several years.” Yet, despite the Senate’s clear stance, hatred and discrimination against either group have no place in the United States. Bigotry against one is bigotry against all.”
The legislation allows law enforcement agencies to track and identify hate crimes through grant programs and other initiatives. Additionally, the attorney general appoints a Justice Department official to begin reviewing hate crime reports quickly across the country as soon as they come in.
Attorneys general will also direct agencies to participate in online reporting requirements and expand efforts to raise public awareness.
In addition, the bill includes a provision that allows alternative sentencing during prosecution on the part of Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas. For example, a defendant may participate in community service or educational courses in the community that the defendant harmed.
In addition, the passage of the bill sends two messages: first, that the government is in solidarity with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and second, that hate crimes will not be tolerated.
As a result of the bill, he believes the Senate will work across the aisle again soon and plan to pursue legislation to boost American competition with China.
“Too few bipartisan bills have been introduced in the last six years,” Schumer said. “Hopefully, this will serve as a reminder that when senators of goodwill work together, a good result will be achieved in the end. We can do it again.”