The U.S. Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a hate crimes bill to combat violence against Asian Americans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rare bipartisan vote in the evenly divided chamber was 94 to 1 with Republican Senator Josh Hawley the only no vote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the vote at a news conference Thursday.
“This legislation sends a dual message to our Asian American community - we will not tolerate violence and bigotry against you. And to those who perpetrate the violence and bigotry, we're going to pursue you to the fullest extent of the law.”
Reports of violence against Asian Americans have spiked since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Activists and police said anti-Asian sentiment was fed by comments from former President Donald Trump blaming the pandemic on China using terms such as “kung flu.”.
[DONALD TRUMP, JUNE 23, 2020] "I can name Kung Flu, I can name..."
The bill, authored by Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono and Representative Grace Meng who are both Asian-American, designates a Justice Department employee to expedite a review of hate crimes reported to police during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It also provides guidance for local law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes, expand public education campaigns and combat discriminatory language in describing the pandemic.
The measure must now pass the House of Representatives, where Democrats hold a clear majority.
President Joe Biden has also called for its passage.