Senate Passes Bill to Target Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

Only Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, opposed the legislation, arguing that it mandated an overly expansive collection of data around hate crimes that could slide into government overreach.

Democrats defeated a roster of amendments proposed by Republicans, including one aimed at banning federal funds for universities that discriminate against Asian-Americans — something that is already unlawful. Another would have required a report on how the government had enforced restrictions on gatherings for religious worship during the pandemic, and a third would have prohibited the Justice Department from tracking cases of discrimination that did not rise to the level of a crime. Ms. Hirono dismissed the amendments as “damaging” and partisan.

Legislative efforts and debates around the spike of violence targeting Asian-Americans have not always proceeded with such bipartisan comity. In sometimes heated exchanges, some Democratic lawmakers have accused Republicans of supporting and echoing President Donald J. Trump’s racist talk around the pandemic, including calling the coronavirus “Kung Flu.” Republicans, in turn, have accused Democrats of engaging in overreaching political correctness, and have countered that Democrats are more interested in attacking their messaging than in addressing violence.

After Representative Chip Roy of Texas, one of the top Republicans on the judiciary panel, used his introductory remarks at a hearing in March on anti-Asian discrimination to issue a lengthy condemnation of the Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus and asserted that Democrats were “policing” free speech, he was met with fiery blowback.

“Your president, and your party, and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don’t have to do it by putting a bull’s-eye on the back of Asian-Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids,” said Representative Grace Meng, Democrat of New York.

“This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community, to find solutions,” she added, “and we will not let you take our voice away from us.”

Experts testifying before the panel told lawmakers that such language had contributed to an atmosphere of increased animus against Asian-Americans. Attacks targeting Asian-Americans — many of them women or older people — have increased nearly 150 percent in the past year, the experts said.