With very little opposition from Republicans, the Senate approved an anti-Asian hate crimes bill aimed at protecting Asians from a recent wave of violence by a vote of 94-1.
The bill requires the Justice Department to name an official to who will review coronavirus-related hate crimes and give state and local support to law enforcement to fight these crimes. It would also work to ban so-called discriminatory language surrounding the virus.
Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased 149% since the pandemic, which originated in China, began.
Many on the left blamed President Donald Trump’s labeling of the coronavirus the “China flu or “Wuhan flu” for the increase in anti-Asian crimes, saying the labels fueled bias and hate against Asians.
Bipartisan compromise led to more support for bill
The mildness of the bill led to bipartisan support for it, particularly when Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) worked together to compromise on some of the bill’s language.
Instead of requiring guidance on the “best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language” to be released, the bill says only that guidance must be “aimed at raising awareness of hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Collins said it was good to work with Hirono and that she hoped Republicans would support the bill.
“In doing so, we can send an unmistakably strong signal that crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in our country will not be tolerated,” she said.
Hirono said she no longer feels safe walking with headphones in because of the recent spate of hate crimes aimed at the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
“An attack on one group in our country is truly an attack on all of us,” she said.
Is a hate crimes bill needed?
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was the only Republican to vote no on the bill. Some Republicans don’t believe hate crimes need any special designation and should just be prosecuted as crimes.
But many Republicans recognize the damage done by the pandemic and its early designation as the “China flu” and don’t wish to be characterized as failing to stand up for the rights of Asians.