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The Senate has cleared a bill aimed at bolstering the Department of Education's ability to investigate anti-Semitic attacks on college campuses.
The proposal, known as the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, passed the upper chamber by unanimous consent two days after it was introduced. It codifies what qualifies as anti-Semitism, using a definition adopted by the State Department.
“This legislation will help the Department of Education investigate incidents of discrimination motivated by anti-Semitism in our schools," Sen. Bob CaseyBob CaseyDems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps GOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat Pennsylvania GOP rep announces bid for Casey's Senate seat MORE (D-Pa.) said in a statement.
The legislation is backed by Casey, as well as Sens. Tim ScottTim ScottWhat prospective college students need to know before they go — or owe Lobbying World Juan Williams: The complicated story of black conservatism MORE (R-S.C.), Ron WydenRon WydenTrump goes big on tax reform Trump gets tough with Canada Five things to watch for in Trump’s tax plan MORE (D-Ore.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamComey to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee Overnight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record Graham: There are 'no good choices left' with North Korea MORE (R-S.C.) and Michael BennetMichael BennetDems knock Trump on Earth Day Dem pushed plan for both sides to admit to abusing Senate rules: report Senators aim to extend federal conservation fund MORE (D-Colo.). It still needs to be passed by the House before it can be sent to President Obama's desk.
According to the legislation, when the Department of Education is trying to determine if a crime violates the Civil Rights Act it should "take into consideration the definition of anti-Semitism as part of the Department's assessment."
Scott called the legislation an "important clarification" to help the Department of Education.
"[It] will provide the necessary direction to assist officials and administrators to understand when anti-Semitic activities are occurring, by clarifying exactly what anti-Semitic is," the South Carolina senator added.
The State Department defines anti-Semitism as a "certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The bill has gotten some pushback over concerns that it's unconstitutional, but both Casey and Scott stressed that the legislation isn't meant to infringe upon First Amendment rights.
According to the 2015 FBI crimes report, nearly 53 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes were due to anti-Jewish beliefs.