The Senate on Thursday passed the first anti-Asian American hate crimes bill by 94-1 votes. The passage of the bill will also allow the establishment of a new position covering hate crimes related to COVID-19 at the Department of Justice. The speedy passage of the bill is in response to the shooting of six Asian women on March 16 in Atlanta in addition to a spike in violence against Asian-Americans in the United States.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng and Sen. Mazie Hirono, but the only lawmaker that opposed the bill was Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley. Given that both divides of the House compromised on several fronts to pass the bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the eventual passage demonstrated that Democrats and Republicans can always work together to resolve important matters.
Hirono said the passage of the bill sends a clear and unambiguous message to bigots that “we’re going after you” and that the government stands solidly behind the Pacific Island community and the Asian American community “against hate crimes.” Hawley who opposed the bill said it was because the bill was too “open-ended” and it relates to “data collection” that will task the government on more resources.
To underscore the far-reaching effects of the bill, Sen. Tammy Duckworth who is also an Asian-American lawmaker in the Senate, said her mother and millions of Asian women in the United States would be glad given how much racism people exhibit toward them. Duckworth noted that her aged mother who is often harassed at grocery stores on account of her ancestry would be gladdened by the passing of the bill.
Hirono stated that the bill passage demonstrated a “solid message of solidarity that the Senate will not be a bystander as anti-Asian violence surges in our country.”
To aid the easy adoption of the bill by lawmakers, several senators worked together to modify the original language of the bill and make it acceptable to both divides of the House. Opponents initially said the language used to explain the types of hate crimes in the bill was limited. Senator Susan Collins said the bill will also facilitate the collection of data on hate crimes so that it will be easy to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.
Following the passage of the bill by senators, the bill will go on to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.