House passes bill to counter anti-Asian hate crimes, sending it to Biden’s desk for his signature

grace meng nancy pelosi anti-Asian hate crimes bill
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) looks on as Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) speaks during a news conference with House Democrats and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus on the “Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act” on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 18, 2021.

  • The House passed legislation on Tuesday to address the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
  • The bill passed the chamber in a 364-62 vote.
  • The Senate approved the bill last month. It now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The House on Tuesday passed a bill that addresses the rise in violence and discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lower chamber approved the legislation, called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, in a 364-62 vote.

The bill directs the Department of Justice to expedite the review of coronavirus-related hate crimes, provide guidance to state and local governments to improve public reporting on hate crimes, and raise awareness about hate crimes during the public health crisis.

Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who championed the bill, said it makes clear that hate against Asian Americans is “unacceptable” and “will not be tolerated.” The legislation also demonstrates that “Congress has the Asian American community’s back,” she added.

“An attack on the Asian American community is an attack on all of us,” Meng said during a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

The bill’s passage comes after the Senate overwhelmingly approved it 94-1 last month in a rare bipartisan effort. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri was the lone “no” vote, arguing it was “too broad.”

The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. Biden has previously expressed support for the legislation and condemned hate crimes against AAPI communities in an executive order during his first week in office.

The federal government has been under pressure to respond to the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic. The nonprofit group, Stop AAPI Hate, has reported 6,603 incidents of physical assault, shunning, verbal and online harassment, and civil-rights violations against AAPI communities in the US from March 2020 to March 2021.

Meng and fellow Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii introduced the legislation in March in the wake of a mass shooting at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The deadly attack sparked national outrage over the uptick in anti-Asian violence coinciding with the spread of COVID-19 across the country and former President Donald Trump elevating terms such as “Chinese virus” and “kung flu.”

During a hearing on the bill in March, Meng accused Trump and other Republican officials of “putting a bull’s-eye on the back” of Asian Americans by regularly using inflammatory rhetoric about the pandemic.

“Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19 and as a result Asian Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on, and even set on fire and killed,” Meng said on Tuesday. “We are here today to say that Congress is taking action.”

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