Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the only senator to vote Thursday against legislation seeking to combat anti-Asian hate crimes, prompting a collective eye roll from critics online.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), is intended to mitigate the rise of violence and discrimination against Asian communities during the coronavirus pandemic, though it’s not limited to addressing hate crimes just against Asian Americans. It gained momentum after six Asian American women were killed in an Atlanta mass shooting last month.
It includes measures that would expedite federal reviews of COVID-related hate crimes, improve reporting of these incidents and provide government-issued guidance raising awareness of pandemic-related hate crimes.
The legislation passed 94-1 after Hirono accepted changes proposed by Republican senators.
She placed onus for the surge in anti-Asian discrimination on former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly coined racist monikers for COVID-19 such as the “China virus” and “Kung flu” on the White House stage.
Hawley, the senator who was seen raising a fist to pro-Trump insurrectionists just before the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, said he was against the bill because “it’s too broad.”
“As a former prosecutor, my view is it’s dangerous to simply give the federal government open-ended authority to define a whole new class of federal hate crime incidents,” he said in a statement.
His opposition to stopping hate crimes irked but apparently did not surprise critics, including his home state newspaper the Kansas City Star, which published an editorial titled “Of Course Josh Hawley Was the Only No on Anti-Asian Hate Crime Bill. That’s His Brand.”