The Slatest

One Republican Senator Voted Against the Anti–Asian Hate Crimes Bill

An extreme close up of Josh Hawley's eyes and well-coiffed hair.
This freaking guy. Pool/Getty Images

The Senate passed a hate crimes bill Thursday aimed at addressing an alarming spike in violence directed at Asian Americans, and the Asian community more generally, since the pandemic began. The bill heads to the House with sweeping bipartisan support after amendments to the Democrat-sponsored bill addressed a handful of Republican concerns. The bill endeavors to expand Justice Department resources to deal with hate crimes, while also creating state-run hotlines to make it easier to report them, as well as provide additional training on identifying hate crimes for local law enforcement. That was a worthy enough enterprise for the bill to pass 94–1, an astonishing margin given, well, the world we live in. But you look at the scoreline and can’t help but wonder: Who’s the one?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Somehow it’s not Sen. Ted Cruz, though it sounds like something he would do. Which Republican senator, because it’s clearly a Republican, could possibly oppose such a bill, one that every other Republican supported? There were six “no” votes in the vote to advance the original iteration of the bill, but the legislation, officially titled the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, was expanded in some areas and refined in others, such that Republican Sen. Susan Collins was able to corral even the likes of Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, another member of the willing-to-sacrifice-any-principle-for-attention caucus, and therefore possible culprit in the hunt for the lone Republican “no” vote.

That leaves, you guessed it, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley as the one U.S. senator to oppose the legislation aimed at combating hate crimes against the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Hawley’s reasoning? “It’s too broad,” he sorta explained in a statement. Oh right, in that case. “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,” Hawley fretted.

Advertisement

The Kansas City Star responded to the news with a staff editorial headlined: “Of Course Josh Hawley Was the Only No on Anti-Asian Hate Crime Bill. That’s His Brand.” Sounds about right. “In short, there is nothing in the bill that is an overreach, unless you think ethnic assaults and murders are acceptable,” the editorial concludes. “Saying the measure is too broad makes no sense, except in the context of his ongoing attempts to set himself apart as the most extreme on any issue.”

In the seven years I’ve been covering news and politics for Slate, I’ve written about some of the United States’ best and worst moments, people, and ideas. Your continued support of Slate Plus will allow me to continue to give our country’s high-stakes struggle to define itself the coverage it deserves. Thank you! —Ben Mathis-Lilley, senior writer

Advertisement