Democrats have put together a remarkably silly piece of legislation, ostensibly intended to do something about anti-Asian hate crimes, and are daring Republicans to oppose it. The improbable hope is that the GOP will give the Democrats a politically sound excuse to end the filibuster.
Hate crimes are already monitored and punished at both the federal and the state level. On top of this, the bill would have the attorney general “designate an officer or employee of the Department of Justice whose sole responsibility [for at least one year] shall be to facilitate the expedited review of COVID-19 hate crimes and reports of any such crime to Federal, State, or local law enforcement agencies.”
Yes, it would dedicate a single person to monitoring hate crimes specifically related to COVID-19, just as the pandemic is nearing its end. “COVID-19 hate crimes” are defined as violent crimes in which the perpetrator was motivated by a belief that the victim — owing to his or her “race, ethnicity, age, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability” — had some role in spreading COVID-19.
The executive branch would also be instructed to offer more guidance to state and local law-enforcement agencies on how to collect hate-crime reports, and to provide “best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It goes without saying that violent crime is serious. There is also evidence that hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen during the pandemic. There could even be a federal role in fighting such crimes, if states fail to provide Asian Americans the equal protection of the laws.
So far, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling that Republicans won’t filibuster the bill and instead will allow it to move forward so that amendments could be made before any final passage.
But unless Democrats are willing to address its significant flaws, Republicans should oppose this bill and trust voters to see through the Democrats’ ploy.