WASHINGTON — The Senate has opened debate on legislation confronting the rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans.
The problem has grown during the coronavirus crisis, with several high-profile attacks on Asian Americans in the U.S.
The debate ahead will also test whether the Senate can push past partisanship or whether it will grind to a halt with a filibuster.
It voted 92-6 to start considering the bill.
Senator Mazie Hirono is the main sponsor of the bill, she introduced it last month after a mass shooting in the Atlanta area at three spa businesses that left eight people dead, six of the victims were women of Asian descent.
The bill would assign an official in the Justice Department to review and expedite all reports of hate crimes related to the coronavirus, senators say the recent rise in attacks on the Asian American community has been sparked by the association of the coronavirus outbreak and where it was first discovered, in China.
In addition, the bill would give support to local and state agencies responding to hate crimes and issue guidance on limiting racially discriminatory language to describe the pandemic.
Hirono says she is open to discussion about widening the bill to include support, funding and guidance about federal and local responses to hate crimes against more communities.
Ahead of the debate, several leaders of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Congress detailed personal stories of the racism they and their constituents have faced during the virus outbreak.