Joe Biden signs anti-Asian hate crimes legislation in response to attacks
President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law anti-hate crime legislation in response to the surge of attacks on Asian Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Every time we’re silent, every time we let hate flourish, we make a lie of who we are as a nation,” Biden said before signing the bill two days after Congress finished passing it. “We cannot let the very foundation of this country continue to be eaten away like it has been in other moments in our history and happening again.”
The newly enacted law would establish a position within the Justice Department centered on anti-Asian hate crimes and allocate resources to enhance state and local reporting.
The legislation passed with overwhelming majorities in both chambers, a relatively rare occurrence in recent years, and was a product of bipartisan deal-making that has eluded other highly charged issues.
In his remarks at the White House, Biden repeatedly underscored the bipartisan nature of the legislation as an achievement in a Congress that has often been polarized into paralysis. Biden also thanked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — whom he obliquely referred to as “the leader from the state of Kentucky” — and Republicans for not filibustering the measure as some Democrats had initially feared.
Negotiators struck a deal to allow votes on a handful of amendments to the bill and made several tweaks to the legislative language, ultimately freeing up the legislation to sail through Congress.
Republicans earlier in the process expressed concern that the legislation was duplicative of other hate crimes statutes and would be designed instead to use as a political cudgel against the GOP.
Former President Donald Trump and other Republicans enraged Democrats and many Asian American advocates by derisively referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus” repeatedly and using other inflammatory terms.
Hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans more than doubled in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same period last year, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
However, advocates say those figures vastly undercount the actual number of hate crimes and bias incidents, something the law is intended to address.
“All of this hate hides in plain sight,” Biden said. “Too often, it is met with silence. Silence by the media, silence by our politics and silence by our history.”
During his speech, Biden referenced several high-profile recent attacks, including this year’s mass shooting in the Atlanta area that left six Asian American women dead.
The law has been met with some criticism from advocates who say it does not go far enough in addressing the root of the issue, as well as some liberals who dislike its emphasis on law enforcement amid a broader reckoning on policing practices in the U.S.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke before Biden and touched upon her nuanced personal background and her status as the first Asian American to hold the position.
“In my life, my lived experience, I have seen how hate can pervade our communities,” Harris said.
“I have seen how hate can impede our progress, and I have seen how people uniting against hate can strengthen our country.”
Here are the 63 Republicans who voted against the anti-Asian hate crimes bill
When the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation intended to counter a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the coronavirus pandemic, 62 GOP members voted against the measure, which was also opposed by one Republican senator when it cleared that chamber last month.
The bill, which is likely to be signed by President Joe Biden, would create a new position at the Justice Department to expedite review of potential Covid-19-related hate crimes and incidents reported at the federal, state or local level. It would also direct the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to work with community-based organizations to issue guidance raising awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic, and would require the US attorney general to issue guidance to work with state and local law enforcement agencies to establish online reporting of them.
The lone Republican senator to oppose the measure in April was Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who said at the time that his opposition stemmed from what he called "big free speech questions."
Here are the House Republicans who voted against the legislation:
- Robert Aderholt of Alabama
- Rick Allen of Georgia
- Jodey Arrington of Texas
- Brian Babin of Texas
- Jim Banks of Indiana
- Andy Biggs of Arizona
- Dan Bishop of North Carolina
- Laurne Boebert of Colorado
- Mo Brooks of Alabama
- Ted Budd of North Carolina
- Tim Burchett of Tennessee
- Kat Cammack of Florida
- Jerry Carl of Alabama
- Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina
- Michael Cloud of Texas
- Andrew Clyde of Georgia
- Tom Cole of Oklahoma
- Warren Davidson of Ohio
- Byron Donalds of Florida
- Jeff Duncan of South Carolina
- Virginia Foxx of North Carolina
- Matt Gaetz of Florida
- Louie Gohmert of Texas
- Bob Good of Virginia
- Lance Gooden of Texas
- Paul Gosar of Arizona
- Mark Green of Tennessee
- Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia
- Michael Guest of Mississippi
- Andy Harris of Maryland
- Diana Harshbarger of Tennessee
- Kevin Hern of Oklahoma
- Yvette Herrell of New Mexico
- Jody Hice of Georgia
- Clay Higgins of Louisiana
- Ronny Jackson of Texas
- Mike Johnson of Louisiana
- Jim Jordan of Ohio
- Trent Kelly of Mississippi
- Doug LaMalfa of California
- Barry Loudermilk of Georgia
- Nancy Mace of South Carolina
- Tracey Mann of Kansas
- Thomas Massie of Kentucky
- Tom McClintock of California
- Mary Miller of Illinois
- Alex Mooney of West Virginia
- Barry Moore of Alabama
- Ralph Norman of South Carolina
- Steven Palazzo of Mississippi
- Gary Palmer of Alabama
- Scott Perry of Pennsylvania
- August Pfluger of Texas
- Tom Rice of South Carolina
- John Rose of Tennessee
- Matt Rosendale of Montana
- David Rouzer of North Carolina
- Chip Roy of Texas
- John Rutherford of Florida
- Greg Steube of Florida
- Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin
- Randy Weber of Texas
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