The United States Senate voted 92-6 last April 14 to advance a bill on hate crimes against Asian Americans, a problem that has dramatically increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Introduced by Hawaiian Senator Mazie Hirono, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act would assign an official from the Department of Justice to facilitate a review of COVID-19 hate crimes and reports with local law enforcement agencies.
The legislation would also establish an online database available in multiple languages to report anti-Asian hate crimes.
The vote signaled a broad bipartisan support to combat the issue, which drew more attention after the Atlanta area shootings last March that killed six Asian American women.
“I can tell you as a proud husband of an Asian-American woman, I think the discrimination against Asian-Americans is a real problem,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, referring to Elaine Chao, his wife and former transportation secretary.
“It preceded the murders that were recently on full display,” McConnell said.
Some of the Republicans who voted to advance the bill initially did not support the legislation, but then indicated their support as long as they could put forward some amendments.
According to Hirono, about 20 amendments have been filed so far, with some from Republicans that “have absolutely nothing to do with the bill.”
“The whole point is that there is a connection between COVID and the rise of these hate crimes. We wanted to make sure that everyone understood there’s a cause and effect here, but I’m open to eliminating that so that we can get to the real issue, which is the rise in hate crimes against AAPIs (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) and what can we do about it,” Hirono said.