Senate to vote on bill to combat anti-Asian American hate crimes on Wednesday

Senate to vote on bill to combat anti-Asian American hate crimes on Wednesday

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) speaks during a press conference on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act at the U.S. Capitol on April 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Stefani Reynolds | Getty Images

The Senate will vote Wednesday on legislation to address a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday.

The bill, put forward by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., would instruct the Justice Department to speed up the review of Covid-19 related hate crimes. It also aims to give local law enforcement more support to respond to violence against Asian Americans and curb the use of discriminatory language on the rise since the pandemic started last year.

The Senate plans to consider two bipartisan amendments to the bill before a final vote Wednesday, Schumer said. Last week, the chamber voted to start debate on the proposal by a 92-6 margin.

“We will vote on the bill on Wednesday. And I dare any senator to vote against this legislation,” the Democrat Schumer said at a rally in his home state of New York. “If they do, shame on them, shame on them. Because this is what America is all about. We will pass this legislation, and the bill will address the rise in hate crime.”

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Meng, speaking at the rally with Schumer, said the bill would make it easier for the federal government to track hate incidents “so we can have a more accurate and fuller picture of what’s happening.” She said “we are finally taking action in Congress” after more than a year of discrimination that has made many Asian Americans wary of leaving their homes or using public transit.

The White House has supported the hate crimes bill. In a statement last week, the Office of Management and Budget said the legislation “will stand up for America’s values by standing strongly against anti-Asian xenophobia and hate.”

Anti-Asian hate crimes rose by nearly 150% last year in 16 of the largest U.S. cities, according to a study released last month by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. The spike in violence followed a surge in racist rhetoric about China after Covid-19 spread to the U.S. — including from former President Donald Trump and his allies in Congress.

Last month, shootings at Atlanta-area spas left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent.

If the Senate passes the hate crimes bill, the Democratic-held House is expected to follow suit and send it to Biden’s desk. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has endorsed the legislation.

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