Posts tagged with "Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer"

Michelle Obama delivers urgent message about this year’s midterm elections

January 13, 2022

Former First Lady Michelle Obama has a message for Americans ahead of the 2022 midterm elections: “We’ve got to vote like the future of our democracy depends on it.”

In a letter titled “Fight For Our Vote,” which was published on Sunday, January 9, as an ad in The New York Times, Obama and her voting rights organization, When We All Vote, called on Americans to continue engaging in democracy amid a historic attack on voting rights.

CNN reports that Obama’s letter—which comes as Congress has yet to move on voting rights legislation at the federal level—was signed by 30 other civic engagement, voting rights and voter mobilization organizations including the NAACP, Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action, Voto Latino Foundation, NextGen America, LeBron James’ More Than A Vote, and Rock the Vote.

“We stand united in our conviction to organize and turn out voters in the 2022 midterm elections, and make our democracy work for all of us,” Obama wrote in the letter.

The former FLOTUS laid out a plan of action and said, within the next year, When We All Vote and the coalition of other organizations will work to “recruit and train at least 100,000 volunteers” and “register more than a million new voters.”

Obama said the coalition will also enlist thousands of lawyers to protect American voters, work to educate Americans on how to ensure their vote is safe, and encourage at least 100,000 Americans to call on their Senators in support of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act—two proposed pieces of legislation that have stalled in the Senate as a result of the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to overcome.

Obama’s letter—published days after the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Capitol riot—referenced the insurrection and the slew of voting restrictions passed at the state level across the country in its wake. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed the chamber will vote on whether to change the Senate’s legislative filibuster rules by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 17, if Republicans block Democrats’ latest effort to advance voting rights legislation.

Citing obstacles to voting access throughout history, Obama wrote that in 2022, Americans must continue to fight for their rights.

“Generations of Americans have persevered through poll taxes, literacy tests, and laws designed to strip away their power—and they’ve done it by organizing, by protesting, and, most importantly, by overcoming the barriers in front of them in order to vote. And now, we’ve got to do the same,” Obama wrote.

Obama added: “We must give Congress no choice but to act decisively to protect the right to vote and make the ballot box more accessible for everyone.”

Research contact: @CNN

Biden to endorse changing Senate filibuster to support voting rights

January 12, 2022

President Joe Biden, in a speech delivered on Tuesday, January 11, in Atlanta, planned to directly challenge the “institution of the United States Senate” to support voting rights by backing two major pieces of legislation and the carving out of an exception to the Senate’s 60-vote requirement, reports the HuffPost.

Coming a week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Biden’s speech at the Atlanta University Center Consortium represents a follow-up to a speech he delivered last week on the first anniversary of the U.S. Capitol riot—characterizing both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act as critical to ensure that the turmoil of January 6, 2021, is followed by a revival of American democracy.

“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” Biden planned to say, according to prepared remarks distributed by the White House. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is: Where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?”

Biden, who served as a senator from 1973 to 2009, argues that abuse of the filibuster―the arcane rule that requires 60 senators’ votes for most legislation to pass—has harmed the Senate as an institution and that carving out an exception for voting rights is the best way to protect the reputation and functionality of Congress’s upper chamber.

The Senate is set to vote on both pieces of voting rights legislation this week. While all 50 Democrats are expected to support the legislation, Republicans are expected to remain unified in opposition and block consideration―as they have the previous three times Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has attempted to call up the Freedom to Vote Act.

That unified GOP opposition will almost certainly lead to a vote on whether to significantly weaken the filibuster. But it appears unlikely Democrats will be able to corral the 50 votes necessary for a rule change. Sens. Joe Manchin (West Virginia.), Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) and other moderates are reluctant to change the body’s rules.

White House aides indicated that Biden’s speech points to Georgia as a reason why voting rights legislation is necessary—highlighting how the GOP-controlled state legislature passed laws making it harder to vote after Democrats won the presidential race and two Senate seats there in 2020.

The Freedom to Vote Act is a compromise version of the Democratic Party’s sweeping voting rights legislation, and it would override many of the restrictive voting laws passed by Republicans since the 2020 election and mandate early voting and same-day voter registration. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would restore sections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 that conservatives on the Supreme Court voted to gut in 2013.

Republicans, up to and including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had long supported extensions to the Voting Rights Act but ceased doing so after the Supreme Court ruling.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Biden extends pause on student loan repayment through May 1

December 23, 2021

President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday, December 22, that he is extending the pause on student loan payments until May 1, reports CNN.

The payments—which had been set to restart on February 1—have been paused since the beginning of the pandemic. Biden pointed to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in the country as the reason for the extension.

“Given these considerations, today my Administration is extending the pause on federal student loan repayments for an additional 90 days—through May 1, 2022 —as we manage the ongoing pandemic and further strengthen our economic recovery,” Biden said in a statement, adding, “Meanwhile, the Department of Education will continue working with borrowers to ensure they have the support they need to transition smoothly back into repayment and advance economic stability for their own households and for our nation.”

The reversal comes less than two weeks after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had indicated that the Administration still was planning to restart federal student loan payments in February—resisting pressure from some fellow Democrats who have been calling for an extension of coronavirus pandemic relief benefits.

The possible extension was first reported by Politico.

Borrower balances have effectively been frozen for nearly two years, with no payments required on most federal student loans since March 2020. During this time, interest has stopped adding up and collections on defaulted debt have been on hold.

Both Biden and former President Donald Trump took actions to extend the pause. Most recently, Biden moved the payment restart date from September 30, 2021, to January 31, 2022, but the Administration made clear at the time that this would be the final extension.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, as well as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Ayanna Pressley, both of Massachusetts, have been pressuring Biden to extend the student loan repayment pause and applauded the extension announcement.

“Extending the pause will help millions of Americans make ends meet, especially as we overcome the Omicron variant,” Schumer, Warren, and Pressley said in a statement.

But they continued to urge Biden to take further action and cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower.

Biden said during the presidential campaign that he would support canceling $10,000 per borrower—but to date, had not taken action to do so, beyond directing federal agencies to conduct reviews on whether he has the authority.

When asked earlier this month about that campaign pledge, Psaki said the executive authority regarding student loan forgiveness is still under review and added that the President supports congressional action on the matter.

“If Congress sends him a bill, he’s happy to sign it. They haven’t sent him a bill on that yet,” she said.

Biden has repeatedly resisted pressure to cancel up to $50,000 per borrower since taking office—making it very clear during a CNN town hall early in the year that he did not support the idea.

Separately, since taking office, Biden’s Department of Education has made it easier for people who were defrauded by for-profit colleges to seek debt relief. It has also temporarily expanded the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that cancels outstanding debt for qualifying public service workers after they have made payments for ten years.

“As we prepare for the return to repayment in May, we will continue to provide tools and supports to borrowers so they can enter into the repayment plan that is responsive to their financial situation, such as an income-driven repayment plan,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement Wednesday.

Borrowers will receive a billing statement or other notice at least 21 days before their payment is due, according to the Department of Education. Those who had set up auto payments may need to notify their loan servicing company they want those to continue.

If federal student loan borrowers can no longer afford their monthly payments, they may be eligible for an income-driven repayment plan. Under those plans, which are based on income and family size, a monthly payment can be as low as $0 a month. The Department of Education has more information online about the payment restart.

Research contact: @CNN

White House lights into Manchin after he crushes Biden’s megabill

December 21, 2021

Senator Joe Manchin struck a decisive blow to President Joe Biden’s sweeping social and climate spending bill on Sunday, December 19—igniting a bitter clash with his own party’s White House, reports Politico.

Biden left negotiations with Manchin this week thinking the two men could cut a deal next year on his sweeping agenda. Then the West Virginia Democrat bluntly said he is a “no” on the $1.7 trillion in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

“If I can’t go home and explain to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there,” Manchin said. “This is a no on this piece of legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.”

Those comments prompted an immediate war with the White House, which took personal aim at Manchin for what officials saw as a breach of trust.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released an unusually blunt statement saying that Manchin’s comments “are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances.”

In announcing his opposition, Manchin raised the same concerns about the bill that he’s had all along: inflation, rising debt, and a mismatch between the package’s ten-year funding and its shorter-term programs, Politico noted. But until Sunday, Manchin had never taken a hard line on the legislation. In the past week, he’s spoken directly to Biden several times, with the president and other Democrats furiously lobbying him to support the bill.

With an evenly split Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) needs every Democrat to go along with the legislation, which only requires a simple majority vote. That dynamic gives Manchin enormous leverage over Biden’s agenda—allowing him to single-handedly sink a priority that Democrats have spent much of the year working on, Politico says.

Manchin’s rollout on Fox News infuriated Democrats Sunday morning. Psaki said that the senator had brought Biden an outline of a bill similar in size and scope that “could lead to a compromise acceptable to all.”

“If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the president and the senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” Psaki said. “Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.”

And while the centrist senator’s staff informed White House and Democratic aides about his forthcoming blow to Biden’s agenda, some Democrats were steamed that Manchin himself hadn’t called Biden or Schumer.

“Manchin didn’t have the courage to call the White House or Democratic leadership himself ahead of time,” fumed one Democrat familiar with internal conversations.

While tempers flared on Sunday, the White House began privately and hastily exploring ways to keep the legislative initiative alive. A White House official told Politico that he believes there are critical elements of the social spending bill that must get done. They plan to continue talking with Manchin and to urge him to honor his previous commitments.

The official added that now may be an opportunity to revisit a concept of the bill that included fewer programs but was paid for over more years — an option that moderate House Democrats and party leaders such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) had pushed for previously.

Centrist New Democrat Coalition Chair Representative Suzan DelBene (D-Washington) said in a statement Sunday that including fewer programs in the legislation but for longer durations “could open a potential path forward for this legislation.”

Research contact: @politico

Averting government shutdown, Biden signs funding measure just hours before deadline

October 4, 2021

Congress and President Joe Biden averted a government shutdown just hours before a midnight deadline on Thursday, September 30, with a bill that funds the government through December 3, USA Today reports.

Congress passed the bill earlier in the day and the president signed it into law shortly after, with less than five hours to spare.

The House voted 254-175 to approve the bill that raced through both chambers in a few hours. The Senate had voted earlier 65-35 to approve the measure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said the legislation would keep government services functioning, prevent furloughs for hundreds of thousands of workers, and protect the economy.

“A shutdown is not anything anyone wants,” Pelosi said.

“At this time – at any time – it is a very, very bad thing to let the government shut down,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).

The vote capped days of drama in Washington, where a lack of action had federal offices preparing contingency and furlough plans for if the government shut down. A deal to keep the government running materialized Wednesday evening after Democrats gave up on an effort to include a provision to raise the nation’s limit on borrowing.

Government funding was set to expire with the end of the fiscal year Thursday at midnight. The temporary extension gives lawmakers more time to approve funding for an entire year of government operations.

Avoiding a shutdown cleared one of four contentious financial hurdles facing Congress in the next few weeks. The House was set to vote Thursday on an infrastructure bill, the timing of which has divided Democrats. Some Democrats argued the infrastructure bill should move in tandem with a $3.5 trillion package of Biden’s social welfare priorities, which is still under negotiation.

“It is a glimmer of hope as we go through many, many other activities,” Schumer said of the funding vote.

A shutdown would have furloughed hundreds of thousands of nonessential federal employees, forcing them to take time off without pay. Essential functions such as the military, law enforcement and air-traffic control would have continued functioning, but discretionary agencies such as the National Park Service would have closed.

A Congressional Budget Office report found a partial shutdown in 2019 cost the economy $11 billion, or more than $31 million per day.

The Senate voted down three Republican amendments to the bill that Democrats said would have scuttled it

  • Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkanasas), proposed to modify the eligibility of Afghan refugees for benefits in the United States;
  • Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), wanted to prohibit federal funding for COVID-19 vaccine mandates; and
  • Senator Mike Braun (R-Indiana) proposed  blocking congressional pay after October 1 in any year when the budget and spending bills aren’t approved.

According to USA Today, part of the reason why the spending vote came down to the wire was because Republicans and Democrats feuded over whether to include in the legislation a provision to raise the nation’s limit on borrowing. Congress must raise the country’s borrowing authority by October 18 or risk a default that economists warn would be an economic catastrophe.

Approval of the funding came quickly after Democrats abandoned their attempts to link the funding to an increase or suspension of the debt limit— an action conservatives and liberals agree needs to be taken so the country can continue to pay its bills and avoid worldwide economic chaos.

“We did not have to be in this place just hours before a shutdown,” said Representative Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

Republicans have said Democrats will need to raise the debt ceiling on their own. On Monday, Senate Republicans blocked debate on legislation that would have addressed both extending funding for the federal government and raising the debt limit.

“The Democratic majority has begun to the realize that the way forward on basic governing duties matches the road map that Republicans have laid out for months,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). “We are able to fund the government today because the majority accepted reality.”

Research contact: @USATODAY

Senate leaves town without action on voting-rights bills

August 12, 2021

The Senate is finally leaving for its August recess—but, after passing the $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill, lawmakers won’t be acting on voting-rights legislation any time soon, The Daily Beast reports.

For months, progressives have held Congress’ annual August recess as a critical deadline for addressing voting and elections reforms. And now, that deadline is blown.

That’s not to say that—after they finished laying the groundwork for a $3.5 trillion economic package in the early hours of Wednesday morning, August 11— Democratic senators didn’t skip town without taking some kind of action. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) got 50 Democrats to get behind a procedural vote to tee up another vote on their signature For the People Act (S.1) elections bill—in September.

Then, Schumer’s requests to bring up another pair of election reforms were promptly blocked by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

With that, the senators promptly hit the exits, not to return until next month. The August fireworks that some progressives had hoped to see on the Senate floor failed to get off the ground.

According to The Daily Beast, “The now-familiar dynamic reinforces a cold, unchanged political reality for Democrats. Their election bills won’t become law unless all Democrats support changes to the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to pass bills—and the fact that nearly all of them support those election bills isn’t bringing about the rule-change as quickly as they want.”

The self-imposed deadline of August isn’t entirely superficial. The closer the 2022 midterm elections get, the less impactful Democrats’ proposals may be in countering the raft of GOP laws being enacted on the state level.

And on another front, many Democrats admit their window has closed to influence the once-in-a-decade congressional redistricting process, through which Republicans are expected to pick up seats in the narrowly divided House.

Their legislation has anti-gerrymandering provisions, but now there’s virtually no chance such provisions could take effect until the next round of redistricting in 2032.

“We are getting very close to a point where it’s tough to see that piece of it having a meaningful impact on 2022 lines,” said Dan Kalik, senior political adviser for the progressive group MoveOn.

Leaving town with all of this hanging over them didn’t sit well with Democratic senators. “It’s frustrating,” said Senator Alex Padilla (D-California), before the vote on Tuesday night. “But we keep up the fight.”

The activists who’ve spent months pushing those Democrats to pass democracy reforms sounded a similar note. Their focus now shifts to September, which will be no less packed than recent months, as Democrats prepare to muscle a partisan $3.5 trillion economic package through Congress.

 What we’re doing now is we’re trying to unify the Democrats between a single robust voting rights proposal,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia). “And then the next goal after that, we’ll see, but we’ve got to get everybody on board with a single robust proposal.”

As long as that Democratic unity is possible, advocates say, the push is alive. “It’s not a clear Waterloo moment. It’s more muddy,” said Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, about the recess, which his group framed as the “Deadline for Democracy” in an organizing campaign.

“Nobody is in a space of, ‘Guys, we’re f**ked,’” he said.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Senate passes $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill in big win for Democrats

August 11, 2021

After weeks of wrangling, on Tuesday, August 10, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill with Republican support—in a big win for Democrats and President Joe Biden, ABC News reports.

The measure passed by a vote of 69-30, with 19 Republicans joining all Senate Democrats to advance the bill out of the Senate chamber. In a sign of its political significance, Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the final vote.

Eighteen Republicans—Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins, Deb Fischer, Lindsey Graham, Rob Portman, Thom Tillis, Chuck Grassley, Mitt Romney, Dan Sullivan, Mike Crapo, Lisa Murkowski, James Risch, Bill Cassidy, Kevin Cramer, Roger Wicker, John Hoeven—as weel as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined Democrats in voting yes.

The package, with $550 billion in new spending, will address core infrastructure needs. Among the funding it includes:

  • $110 billion in new funds for roads and bridges,
  • $66 billion for rail,
  • $7.5 billion to build out electric vehicle charging stations,
  • $17 billion for ports,
  • $25 billion for airports,
  • $55 billion for clean drinking water, and
  • $65 billion investment in high-speed Internet.

According to ABC News, passage represents a major victory for senators from both parties who said they were committed to showing Congress could work in a bipartisan way, as well as for Biden, who campaigned on a promise to work across the aisle.

The package took months to forge, with bipartisan negotiators Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), and Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican, leading a group of ten colleagues in discussions that led to the final package.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the package in remarks just before the final vote, saying, “We have persisted and now we have arrived. There were many logs in our path, detours along the way, but the American people will now see the most robust injection of funds into infrastructure in decades.”

“When the Senate is run with an open hand rather than a closed fist senators can accomplish big things,” he added.

The bill now heads to the House, where it faces a precarious path to Biden’s desk.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who leads a razor-thin majority of Democrats in the House, has made clear she has no intention of bringing the bipartisan bill to a vote until the Senate sends over a second, larger budget bill containing the rest of President Biden’s “American Families Plan” priorities.

The debate of the budget will be far different from the bipartisanship in the debate over infrastructure.

Democrats unveiled their $3.5 trillion budget that includes universal pre-K, free 2-year community college, paid family leave, climate initiatives and a smattering of other social priorities, on Monday morning.

With the bipartisan bill off their plate, Senate Democrats are turning their attention immediately to passing the budget bill, and they’re expected to try to force the massive package through the Senate as early as tomorrow, without a single GOP vote. Budget bills are not subject to the regular 60-vote threshold generally necessary to move legislation forward.

Republicans have vowed to fight the budget resolution at every step, including through what is expected to be a marathon of votes this week on partisan amendments designed to score political points and make centrist Democrats squirm.

McConnell conceded Tuesday morning there will be little Republicans can do to stop the budget from advancing if Democrats keep a united front, but he promised a fight on the Senate floor.

“Republicans do not currently have the vote to spare American families this nightmare,” McConnell said of the $3.5 trillion bill. “But we will debate and we will vote and we will stand up and we will be counted and the people of this country will know exactly which senators fought for them.”

Senate action on the budget this week is just the first in a series of steps before the bill comes to a final vote in the Senate and moves to the House, likely in the fall.

Pelosi said only then, after the full budget process is completed, will she bring both the budget bill and the bipartisan infrastructure bill up for a final vote in the House.

Research contact: @ABCNews

Cuomo violated federal, state laws as he sexually harassed multiple women, NY attorney general says

August 4, 2021

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women—and then retaliated against a former employee who complained publicly about his conduct, according to a bombshell report released on Tuesday, August 3, by State Attorney General Letitia James.

The monthslong probe concluded that Cuomo “sexually harassed multiple women, and in doing so violated federal and state law,” James said at a press conference.

The 165-page report—which comprises interviews with 179 witnesses and a review of tens of thousands of documents—also said that Cuomo’s office was riddled with fear and intimidation, and was a hostile work environment for many staffers.

According to a report by CNBC, the report confirms that Cuomo harassed members of his own staff, members of the public; and other state employees, one of whom was a state trooper, the report alleges.

The findings reveal “a deeply disturbing, yet clear, picture,” James said, describing Cuomo’s office as “a toxic workplace.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated calls for Cuomo to step down just after James’ report was released, and several other high-profile pol—including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Gregory Meeks and Tom Suozzi didn’t take long to join the chorus.

“It is beyond clear that Andrew Cuomo is not fit to hold office and can no longer serve as governor,” de Blasio said. “He must resign, and if he continues to resist and attack the investigators who did their jobs, he should be impeached immediately.”

Cuomo defended himself just hours after the report was released. In an appearance carried by WPIX-TV/Channel 11, Cuomo said, “[I deny] ever sexually harassing people,” and went on to show a photo montage of himself touching people’s faces and kissing them on the cheek.

“I actually learned it from my mother and from my father,” he said. “It is meant to convey warmth, nothing more.”

Cuomo said it’s something he does with everyone and that it’s something he’s done his entire life: “Black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street.”

Research contact: @CNBC

Stacey Abrams-led group kicks off campaign to rally young voters of color around voting rights bill

June 9,2021

The voting rights group Fair Fight Action—founded and headed by activist and former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams—has announcing a month-long campaign to help mobilize young voters of color around the For the People Act (S. 1)—for the Senate version of the extensive voting rights bill championed by Democratic lawmakers, CBS reports.

The campaign, called Hot Call Summer, will last throughout June, and will feature virtual events, a paid media campaign and plans to text at least 10 million voters in 2022 battleground states that have seen controversial voting legislation move in state legislatures. 

“We can’t wait any longer for Congress to protect Americans’ freedom to vote, which is why we need Senators to pass the For The People Act,” Abrams said in an email to supporters first obtained by CBS News. “With voting rights under attack in 48 out of 50 state legislatures across the country, the moment has never been more urgent, and it will take all of us to ensure that Congress passes the voting rights protections our country and democracy desperately need.”

The announcement comes on the heels of West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s announcement in an opinion piece over the weekend that he’ll vote against the bill, which raises a significant roadblock in getting it passed.

“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster,” Manchin wrote in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on June 6.

He has instead urged his colleagues in the Senate to focus on passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has some bipartisan support, but has not yet been introduced in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to bring the For the People Act to a vote by the end of June.

Research contact: @CBS

Senate decisively passes bill to target anti-Asian hate crimes

April 26, 2021

On Thursday , April 22, the Senate overwhelmingly voted (94-1) to approve legislation aimed at strengthening federal efforts to address hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans, amid a sharp increase in discrimination and violence against Asian communities in the United States.

The bipartisan vote was the first legislative action either chamber of Congress has taken to bolster law enforcement’s response to attacks on people of Asian descent, which have intensified during the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reports.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) was the lone opponent of the legislation, arguing that it mandated an overly expansive collection of data around hate crimes that could slide into government overreach.

“By passing this bill, the Senate makes it very clear that hate and discrimination against any group has no place in America,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York. “By passing this bill, we say to the Asian-American community that their government is paying attention to them, has heard their concerns and will respond to protect them.”

The measure, sponsored by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), would establish a position at the Justice Department to expedite the agency’s review of hate crimes and expand the channels to report them. It also would encourage the creation of state-run hate crime hotlines; provide grant money to law enforcement agencies that train their officers to identify hate crimes; and introduce a series of public education campaigns around bias against people of Asian descent.

The legislation will next go to the House, where lawmakers passed a resolution last year condemning anti-Asian discrimination related to the pandemic. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) pledged on Thursday shortly after the bill’s passage to put it to a vote on the House floor next month, calling it a catalyst for “robust, impactful action,” the Times said.

I cannot tell you how important this bill is” to the Asian-American community, “who have often have felt very invisible in our country; always seen as foreign, always seen as the other” said Hirono, the first Asian-American woman elected to the chamber and one of only two currently serving there. “We stand with you and will continue to stand with you to prevent these kinds of crimes from happening our country.”

Republicans initially had offered a lukewarm response to the bill. But they rallied around an amended version after Hirono worked behind the scenes with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) to secure enough Republican support to win 60 votes. That included adding a section explicitly documenting and denouncing attacks against Asian-Americans, as well as the provision establishing the hate crime hotlines, proposed by Senators Richard Blumenthal, (D-Connecticut) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas).

Collins took to the Senate floor on Thursday to urge her colleagues to support the legislation, calling on them to join her in sending “an unmistakably strong signal that crimes targeting Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in our country will not be tolerated.”

In the lead-up to the bill, The New York Times, using media reports from across the country to capture a sense of the rising tide of anti-Asian bias, found more than 110 episodes since March 2020 in which there was clear evidence of race-based hate.

Research contact: @nytimes