An overwhelming majority of senators voted to advance the legislation directing the Justice Department to “facilitate the expedited review” of hate crimes against Asian communities.
But six Republicans — Texas senator Mr Cruz, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Josh Hawley from Missouri, Rand Paul from Kentucky, Tommy Tuberville from Alabama, and Roger Marshall from Kansas — voted against it.
Lawmakers voted with a majority of 92 against 6 in the Senate for the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, bringing it a step closer to being passed, as a step forward in denouncing the sharp increase in discrimination and violence against Asians in the US amid coronavirus.
“It defines COVID-19 hate crime as a violent crime that is motivated by two things: (1) the actual or perceived characteristic (eg race) of any person, and (2) the actual or perceived relationship to the spread of COVID-19 of any person because of that characteristic,” according to the bill’s summary.
The final vote will be held later this week.
The bill was sponsored by senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat from Hawaii, and representative Grace Meng, Democrat from New York.
It would designate a points person at the Justice Department to expedite the review of hate crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic, expand channels for the public to report crimes and issue guidance for mitigating guidance to mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the pandemic.
The attacks and violence against Asian-Americans have increased to about 150 per cent in the past year, according to experts. The organisation Stop AAPI Hate has recorded 3,795 attacks from last March to February this year alone while it suggested many attacks go unreported.
Before the voting, Mr Cotton had said that the Senate should have discussed it from the “Department of Justice before blindly acting on this issue,”as Democrats had speed up the bill’s consideration before holding a hearing about it.