What Kind of a Person Votes Against a Hate Crimes Act?
The deceitful Josh Hawley, that's who.
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Yesterday, having already gone through the House by an overwhelming margin, the Senate passed the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act (S. 937), 94-1 with 5, not voting. One nonvoting Senator was Amy Klobuchar, probably because her father died the day before.
This legislation responds directly to the thousands of attacks on Asian-Americans that have been perpetrated since the arrival of Covid-19 on our shores but is inclusive of all groups subject to violence because of prejudice. The bill mandates “a designated officer or employee of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to facilitate the expedited review of hate crimes and reports of hate crimes,” and DOJ guidance on reporting and data collection, which the federal government will support at the state level with federal grants. Hate crime perpetrators on supervised release must participate in education or community service to make reparation for the crime. And importantly, it seeks to establish whether anti-Asian rhetoric whipped up by the White House was a factor in this surge of attacks.
The lead sponsor for the bill in the Senate was Maisie Hirono (D-HI): 44 co-sponsors stood behind her.
None of them were Republican.
Senate Republicans did try to amend the bill. As part of a bill intended to address violence, Mike Lee (R-UT) proposed an amendment “To require a report on State restrictions on religious exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Ted Cruz’s proposed amendment was snakier, intending to sneak something into legislation as a “hate crime” that has failed in court: “To prohibit Federal funding for any institution of higher education that discriminates against Asian Americans in recruitment, applicant review, or admissions.” Neither of these reached the 60 vote threshold needed to amend and were, of course, a continuation of the GOP’s relentless performative politics.
Who was the no vote? Your favorite fist-pumping election conspiracy theorist and mine, Josh Hawley (R-MO), also been busy this week co-sponsoring legislation to support Israel as it murders Palestinian civilians in an all-out attack on Hamas in the Gaza strip.
“My big problem with Sen Hirono’s bill,” Hawley tweeted on April 22, as it was moving through the Senate, “is that it turns the federal government into the speech police - gives government sweeping authority to decide what counts as offensive speech and then monitor it. Raises big free speech questions.”
And yet, if you read the bill's text, there is nothing in it about speech—nothing at all. And maybe someone told him that, because yesterday, explaining this vote to KMBC-News in Kansas City, he responded even more vaguely. "It's too broad,” he said, of a bill that funds particular tasks of data gathering, analysis, and federal coordination of state-level police agencies. “As a former prosecutor, my view is it's dangerous to simply give the federal government open-ended authority to define a whole new class of federal hate crime incidents," Hawley finished.
The bill neither defines what a hate crime is nor does it create a new class of hate crimes. Violent crimes against Asian Americans have been eligible for hate crimes status.
So, what kind of a person votes against a hate crimes bill and gives such deceitful reasons for it? A person who advanced election fraud conspiracies. A person who lies. A person who intends to use every opportunity to take the national stage to build a platform for himself that mimics MAGA talking points. A person who is playing to the worst white supremacist tendencies in the Republican Party.
Josh Hawley. That’s who.
Claire Bond Potter is Professor of Historical Studies at The New School for Social Research and co-Executive Editor of Public Seminar. Her most recent book is Political Junkies: From Talk Radio to Twitter, How Alternative Media Hooked Us on Politics and Broke Our Democracy (Basic Books, 2020).
What I’m reading:
Progressive Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner wins his primary, which puts this former civil rights lawyer on track to remain in office (Chris Brennan and Sean Collins Walsh, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 19, 2021)
Michael A. Cohen argues that Hamas’s motivation for shelling Israel is political, not strategic, serving only to “to burnish its reputation as the vanguard of the Palestinian resistance”—and strengthen Israel’s most illiberal political elements. (Truth or Consequences, May 18, 2021)
Rohan Zhou-Lee writes that Asian-American and Black organizers should capitalize on their longstanding alliances to support a common goal: abolishing structures that oppress communities of color more broadly. (them, May 17, 2021)