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Senate Democrats push bill to combat surge of Asian American hate crimes amid GOP resistance

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Senate Democrats are hoping to advance a bill addressing the surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans as soon as Wednesday despite the resistance of some Republicans.

The bill, introduced by Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono and New York Rep. Grace Meng, would assign a Justice Department official to expedite reviews of potential Covid-19-related hate crimes, establish an online database of such incidents and require new guidance to “mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing” the pandemic, according to a summary of the proposal.

But it’s unclear whether Republicans will support the measure and allow it to pass in the next couple of days. At least one unnamed Republican senator is privately objecting to the bill and could force the Senate to take time-consuming steps to break a filibuster. Several GOP Senate offices have declined to respond to inquiries about the matter.

“We just want to get more information about who’s reaching out — data collection — working with the state and county law enforcement on hate crimes,” said Hirono. “You would think that all the Republicans would condemn the hate crimes that are being targeted against AAPIs but not enough of them have spoken up.”

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told reporters on Monday that the bill is “just a messaging vote,” and wasn’t considered in the typical committee process. Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley added that he thinks the Senate should hold off on passing legislation until Attorney General Merrick Garland completes his study on hate crimes. Both Republican senators said they still need to look at Hirono’s bill in more detail.

When asked about criticism from the right that the bill is ineffective, Hirono responded, “Coming from the Republicans, just shut up.”

The shootings of six Asian women in Atlanta last month drew even more attention to the rise of anti-Asian violence across the United States. Afterwards, Hirono and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth publicly charged that the Biden administration lacked enough Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in top roles.

Of the 23 Cabinet-level positions requiring Senate consideration, President Joe Biden nominated two Asian Americans: Katherine Tai for trade representative and Neera Tanden for Office of Management and Budget director. Tai, the daughter of immigrants from Taiwan, was confirmed as the first woman of color to be the top US trade negotiator. But Tanden’s nomination failed after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, announced his opposition to it due to her long string of comments attacking Republicans.

In March, Hirono and Duckworth threatened to vote against any of Biden’s nominees who aren’t minorities, and Duckworth said she felt insulted by the White House’s attempts to brush off her concerns. They later backed down from their threats after the White House agreed to add a senior Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison.

Hirono said on Monday that AAPI leaders — including her and Duckworth — will meet with Biden on Thursday, when the position could be named.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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