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House passes Asian Americans hate crimes act as Gaetz and Greene among 62 GOP lawmakers refusing to back it

·2-min read

The US House of Representatives has passed the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act to help combat violent crimes against Asian Americans, incidences of which have spiked during the pandemic.

A two-thirds majority was needed in the lower chamber of Congress for the bill to move forward, which was easily met with a final vote tally of 364 to 62. All those opposed were Republicans.

Among those who voted against the bill were representatives Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, and Madison Cawthorn.

The bill condemns “the horrific shootings in Atlanta, Georgia on March 16th” and reaffirms “the House’s commitment to combating hate, bigotry, and violence against the AAPI community”.

The Senate passed the bill by a 94-1 vote in April, in a rare moment of bipartisanship, and it will now be sent to President Joe Biden for his signature.

In the Senate, the one dissenting vote was Josh Hawley of Missouri.

The bill was introduced by Representative Grace Meng of New York and Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii following the surge in anti-Asian crimes and the Atlanta-area spa shootings that saw eight killed, including six women of Asian descent.

Modest measures laid out in the bill will help law enforcement better deal with the rise in attacks against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities that have seen a sharp increase since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

One benefit of the bill pointed out by cosponsor Don Beyer of Virginia is that it will lead to better data collection as hate crimes are believed to be largely underreported making them difficult to tackle.

A central point person at the Department of Justice will expedite the review of Covid-19-related hate crimes, and provide support for law enforcement agencies to respond to hate crimes.

That person will also facilitate coordination between local and state partners to curb discriminatory language used to describe the pandemic.

Democrats accuse former president Donald Trump of stoking anti-Asian hate with racist rhetoric including referring to Covid-19 as the “China virus”.

The passage of the bill comes during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that the president is pleased to see the House pass the bill and looks forward to signing it into law at the White House later this week.

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