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The vote was 94-1 in favour of the bill, with Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri the lone senator to oppose the measure. It will now get voted on in the House of Representatives before reaching President Joe Biden’s desk.
In a statement sent to The Independent, Mr Hawley said: “It’s too broad. As a former prosecutor, my view is it’s dangerous to simply give the federal government open-ended authority to define a whole new class of federal hate crime incidents.”
In the bill, it denounced the discrimination of Asian communities in the United States, while also creating a new position within the Justice Department that would focus on expediting reviews of potential hate crimes related to Covid-19.
It also beefed up local and state hate crimes reporting, and brought in the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to issue guidance that would raise awareness to Americans about the rise in hate crimes happening amid the pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Thursday that the bipartisan passage of the bill was “proof” that “the Senate can work to solve important issues”.
New York Democratic Representative Grace Meng and Hawaii Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono co-sponsored the bill, which gained support among the public after the Atlanta spas shooting where six women of Asian heritage were left dead.
The shooting on 16 March sparked national outrage and informed the public about the rise in Asian American hate crimes over the last year.
“This historic, bipartisan vote on the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act is a powerful message of solidarity to our AAPI community. Now, I urge the House to swiftly pass this legislation so President Biden can sign it into law,” Ms Hirono said following the bill’s passage in the US Senate.
Some Republicans initially were against portions of the bill, but GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine and other members teamed up with Ms Hirono to alter the broad language in the bill when defining hate crimes.
Following its passage, Ms Collins said the bill “affirms our commitment to stand with” them against hate crimes.
If the bill makes it through the House and is signed into law, it will become one of the first substantive pieces of legislation to address the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.