On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill with overwhelming bipartisan support aimed at combating Asian American discrimination, which has been rising amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act cleared the chamber in a 94-1 vote, USA Today reports. The legislation would require the Justice Department to expedite its review of hate crimes and would appoint an official at the department to oversee the effort.
Additionally, the department would coordinate with local law enforcement groups and community-based organizations to help create awareness over hate crime reporting. An online hate crime reporting system with multiple languages would also be made.
The legislation was sponsored by Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.
"We will send a powerful message of solidarity to the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community that the Senate won't be a bystander as anti-Asian violence surges in our country," Hirono said on the Senate floor Thursday.
The bill's approval displays a rare showing of bipartisan support in this Senate following weeks of negotiations. Both Senate leaders also expressed support for the bill.
"The vote today on the Anti-Asian Hate Crimes bill is proof that when the Senate is given the opportunity to work, the Senate can work to solve important issues," Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said from the Senate floor before the vote.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose wife was born in Taiwan, said that as the "proud husband of an Asian American woman, I think this discrimination against Asian Americans is a real problem."
The bill previously underwent revisions, including the adjustment of the bill's language to broaden its references to "COVID-19 hate crimes." Another addition to the bill would establish grants to aid local and state governments in pushing for more law enforcement training against hate crimes, creating hate crime hotlines, and pushing for a "rehabilitation" effort for perpetrators of hate crimes.
The legislation now heads the House for passage before President Joe Biden can sign it into law.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.