The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act Tuesday, clearing Congress with bipartisan support.
The bill, which was introduced by New York Democratic Rep. Grace Meng and Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, passed 364 to 62, above the two-thirds majority required. It passed the Senate 92-6 in April, and now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
The bill directs the Department of Justice to accelerate its reviews of reported COVID-related hate crimes, and improves the ways to report them to local governments online. It also includes state and local grants to help improve hate crime reporting, a bipartisan provision that was added by Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran.
“The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is a necessary step to confront the second pandemic of racism and discrimination,” Meng said on the House floor Tuesday before the vote. “We cannot mend what we do not measure.”
The bill’s passage through Congress follows a rise in violence against Asian Americans nationwide. Multiple violent attacks have been reported in recent weeks alone, and in March a shooter killed eight people in an Atlanta massage parlor, six of whom were Asian women.
One May study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that hate crimes against Asian Americans increased 150% in 2020 in America’s 16 largest cities.
Despite the wide support, some GOP members criticized the bill for its lack of input from House Republicans.
“Despite my history of work on this and my personal experience, no one in the majority sought out my partnership or input on the anti-Asian hate bills before us today,” said California Republican Rep. Michelle Steel on the floor.
Though the bill originally lacked widespread Republican support, it was ultimately endorsed by multiple GOP figures, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“As the husband of a proud Asian American woman, I think this discrimination against Asian Americans is a real problem,” he said ahead of the Senate vote last month. “And it preceded the murders that are on full display.”
Biden has repeatedly expressed his support for the legislation, and plans to sign it into law.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing crisis of gender-based and anti-Asian violence that has long plagued our nation,” Biden said in a March statement.