Sen. Josh Hawley Explains Lone Vote Against Hate Crimes Bill

Josh Hawley

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.

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.”

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:

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

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