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Kansas Senators differ on advancing hate crimes bill



TOPEKA, Kan.— Republican Roger Marshall of Kansas is among a handful of conservative U.S. senators who opposed moving forward with a Democratic-sponsored measure for confronting hate crimes against Asian Americans.

Marshall’s office said Thursday that an existing federal hate crimes law already prohibits intentionally injuring or trying to injure others based on their race, color, religion or national origin.

The Senate voted 92-6 on Wednesday to have a debate on the proposed COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. Fellow Kansas Republican Jerry Moran voted to proceed.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, of Missouri, also voted against moving ahead with the debate. Hawley’s office did not immediately respond to an email and phone message seeking comment.

The measure is a response to a rise in racist sentiment against Asian Americans, fueled in part by derogatory language about the novel coronavirus’ origins in China. The legislation would assign a point person within the Justice Department to expedite the review of COVID-19-related hate crimes and provide support for local law enforcement to respond to such incidents.

Marshall’s office said the department already has the authority to do many of the things in the bill.