Senate to debate Asian-American hate crime bill Monday


Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Senate is set to reconvene Monday and resume debating a bill intended to combat violence against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill easily overcame a filibuster in the Senate last week. It cleared the initial hurdle with a bipartisan vote of 92-6.

The measure is a response to a rise in racist sentiment against Asian Americans, fueled in part by derogatory language about the novel coronavirus’ origins in China. 

The bill, led by Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Grace Meng, comes after a string of high-profile attacks on Asian Americans. It designates a Justice Department employee to expedite a review of hate crimes reported to police during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It would also provide guidance for state and local law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes, expand public education campaigns and issue guidance to combat discriminatory language in describing the pandemic.

That amendment, led by Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican Jerry Moran in the Senate, would train law enforcement agencies on hate crime investigations and expand resources for victims, among other measures.

Reports of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans have significantly increased during the pandemic.

“For more than a year, the Asian American community has been fighting two crises — the COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-Asian hate,” Meng said last week at the Capitol.

Meng described well-documented “horrifying” images of people being shoved and beaten in public attacks, and of her own conversations with survivors, including the families of the victims of deadly shootings last month in Atlanta. Six of those killed were women of Asian descent.

“Combating hate should not be a partisan issue. It’s about the safety of all Americans,” Meng said.

Hirono said she was working with Republican Senator Susan Collins on additional language to broaden support for the bill and supported a bipartisan amendment that would add the “No Hate Act” to the legislation.

“At a time when the AAPI community is under siege, this bill is an important signal that Congress is taking anti-Asian racism and hatred seriously,” said Hirono, using an acronym referring to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, before the vote.

The bill, which was first introduced in the House of Representatives in 2016 by Congressman Don Beyer, was reintroduced in that chamber earlier this month.

Senate Republicans have panned the legislation for various shortcomings including Senate Republicans Roger Marshall of Kansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

Marshall’s office said Thursday that an existing federal hate crimes law already prohibits intentionally injuring or trying to injure others based on their race, color, religion or national origin.

Hawley told reporters in the Capitol that he’s concerned about how the measure mandates data collection in “expansive categories.”

You can read the full bill below:

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The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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