The US Senate has voted with sweeping bipartisan support to open a debate on an anti-Asian American hate crimes bill, clearing a key hurdle to its final passage vote in the chamber.
After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said: "I'm so glad that our Republican colleagues have voted with us to proceed with this legislation. This was never intended as gotcha legislation. It was always intended as bipartisan legislation." The Senate late voted 92-6 to move forward debating on the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, a bill drafted by Democrats that intended to speed up administrative processing of hate crimes, which the Asian American community has seen a skyrocketing surge during the pandemic.
Under the bill, the Justice Department would be required to designate an official to review pandemic-related hate crimes, as well as to coordinate with local law enforcement and community-based groups to facilitate and raise awareness about hate crimes reporting.
The bill would also call on the federal administration to offer guidance on "best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language" describing the coronavirus pandemic.
Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have started negotiating a deal on amendments to the bill, local media reported.
Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono, who introduced the legislation, said on Wednesday that in total about 20 amendments have been filed so far, though some of them "have absolutely nothing to do with the bill".