Floor Speech on S. 937, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act

May 18, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of S. 937, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his leadership in bringing this important legislation to the Floor.  It really is representative of his lifetime of service to our country for liberty and justice for all, the term that our distinguished Leader mentioned in his comments.  Liberty and justice for all. 

I want to spring from that and talk about ‘E Pluribus Unum.’  When our Founders established that as a principle, as a guide – ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ from many one – they could never have imagined how many we would be or how different we would be from each other.  But they knew we had to be one, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  Thank you, Mr. Leader, for framing it in that way. 

And thank you, Mr. Chairman, for bringing us together around this legislation put forth by Representative Grace Meng, a real champion in Congress, who's long led the charge against anti-AAPI bigotry – and all forms of bigotry and violence – and who sees its impact firsthand in her district in Queens.  I have visited her there and seen the beautiful diversity of her community, even diversity within the Asian American community, as diverse as it is.  And the trust that they place in her – well placed. 

And I salute CAPAC Chair, Judy Chu, who’s an historic leader, who every day is ensuring that the AAPI community has a powerful voice and strong representation in the United States Congress. 

I was listening to the gentleman's comments, and I was recalling when this resolution came to the Floor last year.  And the Leader on the other side said, ‘nobody, nobody in the kitchen tables of America is talking about this.’  And other Members said that I was wasting the Congress' time as Speaker to be addressing this AAPI violence, the hate – COVID initiative.  It was ridiculous to say we were wasting time.  It is important.  It is the work of the Congress.  This is an issue for us.  It is a value.  It is a value that is reaffirmed by an overwhelming vote in a bipartisan way in the United States Senate. 

And I know that Representative Meng considered it a happy day when we were on the Senate side and the leadership of Chuck Schumer, with Senator Mazie Hirono, Senator Duckworth, our colleague, Andy Kim, and, of course, our lead sponsor, Grace Meng, as that bill was being brought forward on the Senate side, which as we all know, received very strong, overwhelming, bipartisan support. 

So, today in the House we see representation in action, as we bring to the House Floor important legislation to address a grave and growing crisis in the AAPI community and our entire country, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.  And again, I salute Mazie Hirono and Tammy Duckworth, our leaders in the Senate, where the legislation passed almost unanimously – a clear sign of the Congress' unity on this priority. 

I, too, represent – am blessed to represent – a district that is blessed with a large AAPI population.  And I have seen, as have some of our other colleagues firsthand, the hate crimes exacted against them intensified since last year.  Over 6,600 incidences of anti-AAPI discrimination and violence from March of last year to March of this year in all 50 states have been reported.  Businesses vandalized.  Seniors attacked.  Families living in fear.  And hundreds more occur unreported in the shadows.  This is what we know. 

These attacks are even more shameful in light of the heroism of our AAPI community during the pandemic, against which two million – against this pandemic – two million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are fighting on the frontlines on health care, as health care providers, as first responders, our police and fire and other essential workers.  As a Californian, again, I have seen firsthand the pain in my community, [at] an AAPI-serving health care clinic in Chinatown last month and in conversations with the AAPI groups.  We have these regular conversations at this time, sadly, taking this form. 

This epidemic of anti-AAPI bigotry is a challenge, really, Madam Speaker, to the conscience of our country, which demands bold, effective and immediate action.  As the House prepares to pass this legislation today, I also join my colleagues in support of Chair Judy Chu's resolution condemning the deadly attack targeting the AAPI community in Georgia last month.  These shootings were a vicious and vile act that compound the terror and pain that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders face each day. 

This bill that we have on the Floor today, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, will strengthen our defenses against any anti-AAPI violence, speeding our response to hate crimes, supporting state and local governments as they improve reporting and ensuring that they have crimes information that is more accessible to the Asian American communities.  This legislation also includes bipartisan measures to further improve hate crimes reporting and promote a better response to those hate crimes of any kind. 

Madam Speaker, it's really important.  If we are going to address the matter, if we are going to help solve the problem, we have to have an accounting of what it is.  As I said, 6,600 in the past year, a lot of it intensified toward the end of that year.  So, that's why I thank Representative Don Beyer for his leadership in the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act – now as an amendment to this bill.  This bill also builds on steps taken by President Biden, including his Day One Executive Order to marshal federal resources to combat xenophobia against Asian and Pacific Islanders and his March 30th announcement of additional steps to combat anti-AAPI bigotry.  Together, these steps will make a significant difference to address hate crimes in America – not only during this pandemic, but for years to come. 

This month, May, is AAPI Heritage Month.  This month, we celebrate the many blessings that the AAPI community has bestowed on our nation over the generations.  As we do so, let us honor those contributions with action, ensuring that every Asian American and Pacific Islander and their families and loved ones can live with safety, dignity and pride. 

With that, I urge a strong bipartisan vote for the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and ask for the Chu resolution condemning the shootings of Georgia when that comes up.  And I look forward to seeing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes [Act] go directly to the President's desk, as it has already passed the Senate, and be swiftly signed into law in a strong, bipartisan way. 

With that, I urge a strong ‘aye’ vote and yield back the balance of my time.