a rare act of bipartisanship
After nearly two weeks of negotiations, the Senate voted on Thursday to pass legislation designed to curb the increase of anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic. The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act was approved 94-1 in a sweeping showing of bipartisan support. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the only holdout.
Hawley has argued the bill is too broad and "open-ended" because it mandates "all this data collection in expansive categories that the federal government will collect and maintain," CNN reports.
Whatever his concerns, Hawley stands alone, though a few other senators abstained from voting. Despite initial skepticism from other Republicans, the bill, sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), gained traction following the Atlanta spa shootings that killed six Asian women in March. With buy-in from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Hirono later worked to expand the bill's initial scope.
"Senator Collins and I identified changes that will broaden support for the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act while retaining the bill's core purpose to combat anti-Asian hate," Hirono said in a statement.
The legislation now designates a Department of Justice official to oversee the review process for all pandemic-related hate crimes and work with Health and Human Services to raise awareness of the crimes in general. Local law enforcement agencies are called upon to establish reporting hotlines and hate crime tracking infrastructure, NPR reports.
In an additional provision authored by Sen. Richard Blumental (D-Conn.) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), the bill establishes educational and volunteer grants to help rehabilitate defendants in hate crime-related cases.
Pending passage in the House, the bill will move to President Biden's desk to be signed into law.