Citing those revisions, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said he would reverse his position on the measure and support it. Language in the original bill did not once refer to the Asian-American community but instead mentioned victims of “Covid-19 hate crimes,” Mr. Cotton said, adding that an earlier provision directed federal agencies to issue guidance advising what kind of terms to use in describing the pandemic, a move he said was too prescriptive.
Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, was the lone opponent of 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 said that they are more interested in attacking rhetoric than in addressing violence.
A torrent of hate and violence against people of Asian descent around the United States began last spring, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Background: Community leaders say the bigotry was fueled by President Donald J. Trump, who frequently used racist language like “Chinese virus” to refer to the coronavirus.
- Data: The New York Times, using media reports from across the country to capture a sense of the rising tide of anti-Asian bias, found more than 110 episodes since March 2020 in which there was clear evidence of race-based hate.
- Underreported Hate Crimes: The tally may be only a sliver of the violence and harassment given the general undercounting of hate crimes, but the broad survey captures the episodes of violence across the country that grew in number amid Mr. Trump’s comments.
- In New York: A wave of xenophobia and violence has been compounded by the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has dealt a severe blow to New York’s Asian-American communities. Many community leaders say racist assaults are being overlooked by the authorities.
- What Happened in Atlanta: Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in shootings at massage parlors in Atlanta on March 16. The motives of the suspect, who has been charged with murder, are under investigation, but Asian communities across the United States are on alert because of a surge in attacks against Asian-Americans over the past year.
After Representative Chip Roy of Texas, one of the top Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, 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.”