US Senate passes 'Hate Crimes Act' in overwhelming vote

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The Senate on Thursday approved a bill created to make it easier for law enforcement to investigate hate crimes against Asian Americans, which have surged amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issue gained momentum and sparked national outrage in March following shootings at three massage businesses in Atlanta that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, speaks at a news conference after the Senate passes a COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act on Capitol Hill, April 22, 2021, in Washington.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where it's expected to pass with wide bipartisan support.

"These unprovoked, random attacks and incidents are happening in supermarkets, on our streets, in takeout restaurants - basically, wherever we are", said Democratic Sen.

Republicans at first hesitated to adopt a position on the legislation, which carefully avoids any mention of former president Donald Trump's comments about the "Kung Flu" and "the China virus" as possible inspiration for attacks on Asian Americans - but the inference is easily understood.

Democrats were initially concerned Republicans would attempt to delay or block the bill through a filibuster. Hirono worked closely with Sen.

The changes would replace language in the original bill that called for "guidance describing best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the COVID-19 pandemic".

That is because hate crimes are notoriously undercounted, she said.

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Ottawa has also shipped more equipment such as oxygen units and drugs to treat COVID-19, he said. Ontario is controlling what it can control, he added: "Air travel is under federal jurisdiction".

The bill passed 94-1, with Missouri Senator Josh Hawley the only no vote.

The bill was held up in recent days over which amendments Republicans could offer up for floor votes ahead of Thursday's final passage.

One concern is that hate crimes are actually underreported. Some said it doesn't need to be the last.

Hirono said it is her "sincere hope that we can channel and sustain the bipartisan work done on this important piece of legislation" to a larger bill that would change policing laws, which Senate Republicans are negotiating with House Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer championed the bipartisan passing of the bill, calling it "proof" the divided Senate can still work together to get legislation passed.

The legislation does highlight that in a almost one-year period ending February 28, the country has seen about 3,800 cases of related discrimination and hate crime incidents.

"It is instead a Democratic messaging vehicle created to push the demonstrably false idea that it is somehow racist to acknowledge that Covid-19 originated in Wuhan, China and that the Chinese Communist Party actively lied and suppressed information about the outbreak, allowing it to become a global pandemic", Cruz said last week before introducing an amendment to pull federal funding from universities that discriminate against Asian Americans in admissions processes.

Republicans agreed to back the compromise bill after the Senate also voted on and rejected a series of GOP amendments, including efforts to prevent discrimination against Asian Americans in college admissions and reporting about restrictions on religious exercise during the pandemic.

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