Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) introduced a bill last week that would malign people as racists for using the term "Chinese Virus," connecting it to hate crimes.
Senate Resolution 580 condemns "all forms of Anti-Asian sentiment as related to COVID-19," citing "Chinese Virus," "Wuhan Virus," and "Kung Flu" as inaccurate rhetoric perpetuating anti-Asian stigma. The bill calls on public officials to denounce such rhetoric in any form. It also calls on law enforcement officials to investigate, document, and prosecute the perpetrators of hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Harris's resolution is currently cosponsored by a host of Democratic senators, including Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), but no Republicans.
During the coronavirus crisis, Harris has been critical of her Republican colleagues and said they need to transcend partisan politics and support legislation to "protect" Americans.
In a recent letter to Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), she reprimanded him for his decision to vote for a subpoena related to an ongoing investigation of former vice president Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden.
"Rather than prioritize providing important oversight that will protect Americans from the unprecedented threat posed by this pandemic, you have continued to pursue partisan political matters … that do nothing to help the millions of constituents that we serve. This is a clear abdication of responsibility," she said.
The terms "Chinese Virus" and "Wuhan Virus" were used by U.S. officials and some news outlets early in the coronavirus crisis, which led to condemnation from the Chinese government and then from members of the American news media. But a Washington Free Beacon report found Chinese state-media outlets routinely referred to the pathogen as the "Wuhan virus" or "Wuhan pneumonia" through mid-February.
President Trump defended his use of the term "Chinese Virus" in March, saying it is "not racist at all" and pushing back on Chinese propaganda saying the virus came from the United States.
"It comes from China," he told reporters.
Similarly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended using the term "Wuhan Virus" during a meeting of foreign ministers in March.
A companion bill to Harris's was introduced in the House by Rep. Grace Meng (D., N.Y.) and also has no Republican cosponsors.