Only one U.S. senator opposed passing a bill directed at fighting the surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic — because it was “hugely broad.”
The legislation, known as the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, was introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) in March and directs the Justice Department to facilitate the expedited review of such crimes.
As part of a deal with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Hirono changed the language on what guidance should be offered by the administration from “best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language” to guidance “aimed at raising awareness of hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to The Hill.
This resulted in a rare moment of bipartisan support Thursday, when the bill received an overwhelming 94-1 vote — with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) being the lone voice of opposition.
PASSED: Today, the US Senate rejects anti-Asian hate.
This historic, bipartisan vote on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is a powerful message of solidarity to our AAPI community. Now, I urge the House to swiftly pass this legislation so President Biden can sign it into law. pic.twitter.com/gaoLgnwgO9
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) April 22, 2021
Nearly 3,800 anti-Asian incidents have been reported to national coalition Stop AAPI Hate from March 19, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021. Observers believe more cases in that period have never been reported, while official hate crime cases continue to rise.
Hawley was one of six other Republicans who — for varying reasons — voted against advancing the bill last week. Those include Sens. Tommy Tuberville (Alabama), Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Roger Marshall (Kansas), Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Ted Cruz (Texas).
Hawley maintained his stance against the bill on Thursday. In a statement after the vote, he said “it’s dangerous to simply give the federal government open-ended authority to define a whole new class of federal hate crime incidents.”
Later that evening, the 41-year-old senator went on to tweet that the bill essentially “raises big free speech questions.”
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. Raises big free speech questions
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) April 23, 2021
Hawley’s statement only drew further backlash. Many Twitter users accused him of racism.
“And you are the ‘only’ person who could see this? Is it possible you are looking through racist glasses?” one user asked.
Another pointed out, “There is a difference between free speech and hate speech.”
Meanwhile, others raised the fact that Hawley supported the Capitol invasion of Jan. 6.
“Just like when you supported riots at the capital. You seem to love ‘speech’ so long as it involves Republicans committing violence,” one wrote.
See more reactions below:
Funny you were the ONLY one who thought that..
— PMCM (@Lasttoletyoudwn) April 23, 2021
“My big problem with Sen Hirono’s bill that Senate voted on today is that I’m racist.”
— Evan (@daviddunn177) April 23, 2021
This country’s big problem is YOU
— SHARINSKI (@Royal_____Rebel) April 23, 2021
No problem with this though, Josh Hawley? pic.twitter.com/aLa822CDT4
— Rod Recharged ᴱ ⁼ ᵐᶜ² ӎႺ୲ᙓ ୲ Ø⨿ ᙎ୲꜖꜖… (@RechargedRod) April 23, 2021
No, your big problem is you’re a white supremacist who doesn’t care about the safety and well-being of your minority neighbors.
— Zack Hunt (@ZaackHunt) April 23, 2021
Remember that the United States Constitution says that “no Person (@HawleyMO) shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress” who “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the Constitution, “or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” (14th Amendment)
— Certified Mutant Enemy (@rlrr) April 23, 2021
— D Villella ❄️ (@dvillella) April 23, 2021
All hate speech is offensive.
Racism is not free speech.
It’s really actually quite simple.
— TheModernMom (@themodernnmom) April 23, 2021
94-1. Read the room. No one is concerned about free speech when it comes to hate crimes. I can’t believe you’re a lawyer.
— Ol’ Grumps Brian (@brianbsblurbs) April 23, 2021
My big problem is you are a racist asshole.
— David Weissman (@davidmweissman) April 23, 2021
However, Hawley might not have been the only Republican to go against the bill. While Sens. Tuberville, Cotton, Marshall and Cruz ultimately offered support, Sen. Paul missed the vote and might have gone with nay as well, according to CNN.
The House, which has created a similar version of Hirono’s bill, and the Senate must agree on a new bill to present to President Joe Biden to sign into law.
Feature Image Screenshot via The Hill