Washington DC: The Senate on Thursday (local time) passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, a bill that aims to end violence specifically targeted at Asian communities in the United States.
The vote was 94-1. The lone vote in opposition was from Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, CNN reported.
It further reported that the bill would also direct the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to issue guidance raising awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic, and work with agencies to establish online reporting of them. It now goes to the House before being signed into law by US President Joe Biden.
The bill, sponsored by New York Democratic Rep. Grace Meng and Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, gained momentum after the shooting of six Asian women in Atlanta on March 16 drew more attention to the rise of anti-Asian violence over the past year.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the bill is a “proof” that “the Senate can work to solve important issues,” and would tell bigots “we’re going after you”.
Some Republicans were initially skeptical about the legislation known as the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act but Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins and others teamed up with Hirono to strike an agreement broadening its support.
The bill’s passage “sends a clear and unmistakable message of solidarity” to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, Hirono said.