After two scalding weeks of back-and-forth negotiation, the Senate staggeringly approved legislation to combat Asian-American violence amidst a sharp rise in COVID related discrimination and hate crimes. Save the vote of GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act was passed on a hopeful 94-1 ballot, revealing a glimmer of togetherness in the often partisan group of politicians.
Proposed by Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono in the Senate, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act would encourage local law enforcement to more suitably keep an eye on COVID related hate crimes, as well as designate a Department of Justice official to each case to expedite its review. Apart from that, the attorney general, along with the Health and Human Services secretary and COVID–19 Health Equity Task Force team, would be asked to further guide, educate, and spread awareness about the dangers of COVID-stemming bigotry against Asian-Americans.
Having climbed the highest peak, the future is bright for the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act as it expects to be approved in the House, and, eventually, at the desk of President Joe Biden. As Biden praised the work of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, he also added that, "This critical legislation will bring our nation one step closer to achieving justice and equality for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.”
Though the bill is out of legislative woods, it continues to foster backlash from far right Congressional representatives and various other skeptic politicians. Sen. Josh Hawley, the only senator to vote against the bill, took to Twitter to explain his choice: “My big problem with Sen Hirono's bill that Senate voted on today is that it turns the federal government into the speech police - gives government sweeping authority to decide what counts as offensive speech and then monitor it.”
Hawley wasn’t the only one concerned about the DOJ’s seeming breach of freedom. Texas Rep. Chip Roy quickly matched the Missouri Senator’s views by arguing on Twitter: “[The legislation] leaves DOJ with carte blanche to define hate 'incidents' & instruct local, state law enforcement how to track."
A Step Forward
While the lawmakers do seem to be outraged, it must be noted that they truly are the only ones. Infamous conservatives like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all voted yes on the bill, heavily invalidating Hawley and Roy’s childish whining.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is a monumental step forward in post-COVID reconstruction. On voting day, unanticipated bipartisan unity in the Senate proved to be promising for future initiatives, especially in matters of race. The preliminary approval of this act, coupled with its (mostly) buoyant reception, is a huge win for Asian-Americans and should be treated as such. While there is still a long way to go, the progress made by revolutionary Asians during a time of relentless partiality is truly commendable and an inspiration to groundbreaking social movements everywhere.