Senate nears breakthrough on hate crimes bill

Passing the hate crimes bill would go a long way toward diffusing partisan tensions over the filibuster that have simmered since President Joe Biden took office. Many Democrats had assumed the GOP would block the narrow bias crime legislation, but instead the two parties appear to be successfully negotiating.

The Senate last week voted overwhelmingly to move forward on the proposal from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) to designate an official at the Justice Department to expedite the review of hate crimes, as well as to improve guidance for state and local hate crime reporting. Hirono has pitched an amendment with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would adjust the legislative language.

Collins, along with other Republicans, had expressed concern about the bill’s original language, which specified a link between hate crimes and coronavirus. The amendment with Hirono is intended to resolve that issue, by striking language related to “COVID-19 hate crimes” and replacing it with “hate crimes” and making an explicit reference to Asian Americans.

In addition, the Senate is expected to consider an amendment from Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) that would establish grants to aid state and local governments with hate crime reporting.

Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.

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