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Sen. Josh Hawley Defends Solo Vote Against Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Bill

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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the lone wolf in voting against an anti-Asian hate crimes bill.

The Missouri Republican was the only senator to vote no on the bill, “COVID–19 Hate Crimes Act,” on Thursday — five senators were absent. The bill passed in a 94-1 vote. It seeks to combat violence against Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In defense of his vote, Hawley took to Twitter on Thursday night and wrote, “My big problem with Sen Hirono’s bill that Senate voted on today is that it turns the federal government into the speech police – gives government sweeping authority to decide what counts as offensive speech and then monitor it.”

He added, “Raises big free speech questions.”

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The bill was authored by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.).

The bill reads, “The United States condemns and denounces any and all anti-Asian and Pacific Islander sentiment in any form.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said this week, “Earnest bipartisan conversations have improved this legislation considerably behind the scenes.”

Hawley has called the bill “too broad,” adding in a statement, “As a former prosecutor, my view is it’s dangerous to simply give the federal government open-ended authority to define a whole new class of federal hate crime incidents.”

His vote against the bill received criticism from his home state newspaper. The Kansas City Star wrote an op-ed titled, “Of course Josh Hawley was the only no on anti-Asian hate crime bill. That’s his brand.”

The newspaper said that Hawley “had just been elected Missouri’s attorney general when he started running for the U.S. Senate” and “is not even right about being a former prosecutor, though the AG’s office does have certain prosecutorial powers.”

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A Pew Research Center study published on Wednesday found that one-third of Asian Americans are fearful of threats and physical attacks, and many say violence against them is rising.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, 45% of the respondents said they experienced at least one of five incidents tied to their race or ethnic background.

The experiences polled included fearing a physical attack from someone, others acting uncomfortable around them, being “subject to racial slurs or jokes,” “someone making a remark they should go back to their home country,” and someone suggesting they should be blamed for the coronavirus outbreak.

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