Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of House Resolution Condemning All Anti-Asian Sentiment Since the Outbreak of COVID-19

September 17, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.Res. 908, Condemning All Forms of Anti-Asian Sentiment As Related to COVID-19.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for the recognition, but I also thank Mr. Nadler as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee for bringing this important statement of our American values to the Floor of the House.  I thank him and our colleagues from the Senate, Senator Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono.  Three Asian American Members of the United States Senate, who were so instrumental in advancing this important, as I said, statement of American values. 

And, yes, it is a good use of time for us in the House of Representatives to state our values, to remove all doubt that people in our country are respected and that we are not using a pandemic to have people – well, I’ll go into that in a moment, but let me just say this. 

Before the distinguished Leader spoke, the gentleman on the other side said, ‘Where are you when you are talking about violence, this or that?’  We're there.  We support peaceful demonstrations.  We participate in them.  They are part of the essence of our democracy.  That does not include looting, starting fires or rioting.  Those are – they should be prosecuted.  That is lawlessness.  I’m very proud that Joe Biden has made, presented the clarity of that.  Making a distinction that I don't think our colleagues quite understand, but the American people do. 

In a poll released today, it said that the American people support Congressional Democrats over President Trump in terms of dealing with the issue of crime in our country for all of their misrepresentations. 

It's interesting to hear the revisionist history that the distinguished Leader put on the Floor of this House when he asked us, ‘What have we done?’  It's a very long list and I’ll go into some of it.  But I want to say to him, when you had the Majority and the Presidency, the one thing that you did was pass a tax bill that took – put $2 trillion of debt onto our children and giving 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent in our country. 

And yet, you resent the fact we want to invest more money in making it safe for our children to go back to school, more money into crushing the virus, which is what we do in the Heroes Act, that we want to help our heroes.  That's why it's called that.  Our state and local employees, our state and local governments, which provides services to the American people, our health care workers, our first responders, our police and fire, our transportation, sanitation workers, our food providers.  All of those people working make life go on for us.  Without them, we couldn't – and our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, the custodians for our children for a good part of their day and of their lives.  And yet, the disdain that the Republicans have for our – for our heroes is clear because that is the obstacle to our bringing the coronavirus legislation to the Floor that is so needed, but I hope that we can reach agreement on that. 

So, when they talk about accomplishments, you had a President.  You had two houses of government.  What did you do but take care of the top 1 percent to the tune of 83 percent of the bill that would put $2 trillion of debt onto our children and their future?  

In terms of China, I take second place to no one in this body in my opposition to China for three decades.  Sometimes I take pride being called the most disliked American in China for my opposition to China, their trade policies, which have been a rip-off of the American worker, and have fought them for decades.  Whether it's stealing our intellectual property, barriers to our products going into China and other violations.  Trying to stop their proliferation of weapons, technologies of mass destruction to rogue countries and delivery systems, to make – to their human rights policies in Tibet and Hong Kong, and now with the Uyghurs, and, again, all over China. 

So, I have been on it every single day for over 30 years.  I need no pontificating from the Leader on the other side, who seems to have newly arrived at this issue in order to block attention from the fact that the Russians are trying to, once again, infiltrate and jeopardize the security of our elections.  Whoever interferes with our elections must be dealt with.  Whatever country it is.  But all of a sudden, it's all about China and not about Russia.  I think the American people should decide who the next President of the United States is, not Vladimir Putin. 

And so we come here today – and I say this about the legislation because we had four bills that have been overwhelmingly bipartisan on COVID.  Our first one in March, March 4th, was testing, testing, testing.  And still we do not have a commitment from this Administration that we can crush the virus by testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, sanitation, ventilation, separation.  Still, the solution is as plain as the nose on your face that should be covered with a mask. 

And yet, and yet, the President said he didn't want to cause panic.  But he doesn't mind causing panic that will result in some terrible things happening to the Asian American community in our country.  It's brought about great angst as it shines, the legislation shines a bright light on the injustice experienced by so many, including the surge of violence and discrimination being experienced by the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. 

So, I thank the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Judy Chu, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Joaquin Castro, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass, for their leadership on this important resolution, this important resolution, this very necessary use of our time to condemn and combat anti-Asian sentiment.  Grace Meng has led this drumbeat for justice for a generation.  Together, with the other leaders, she has brought this legislation to the Floor and I salute her. 

As the resolution states, and we have all seen, at the same time that the coronavirus pandemic has broken out, so, too, has a disturbing epidemic of hate and discrimination against the AAPI community, and that has erupted.  You may not have noticed it.  You may have tried to ignore it, but, in fact, exists.  According to the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center, more than 2,500 recorded incidents of anti-Asian hate have been perpetrated against AAPI communities since March.  These include both physical and verbal attacks, commuters spat on, racial slurs lobbied at passersby, community members shunned, store owners having businesses vandalized and even little children, little children being pushed and shoved and families insulted in places of business.  Many of these incidents represent civil rights violations.  And that is a value for us to protect. 

It is particularly unconscionable that more than two million members of the AAPI community are fighting on the frontlines against the COVID-19 virus.  Yet, instead of being celebrated as heroes, they are fighting violence and bigotry. 

In February, during one of my visits to San Francisco's Chinatown, which I am overwhelmingly proud to represent, I was heartbroken to witness the devastating impact that fear, stigma and misinformation continue to have on families and businesses.  Nearly half of recorded incidents of anti-Asian hate, according to the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center, have occurred in California.  For many of the Bay Area who remember the systemic injustices and discriminations perpetrated against generations of Asian Americans, this resurgence is a traumatic reminder of the lingering specter of xenophobia. 

Sadly, this bigotry is being fueled by some in Washington, D.C.  And you would think – I thought this would be almost unanimous consent to condemn violence against Asian Americans.  Even from the White House itself, which uses dangerous, false and offensive terms to describe the coronavirus. 

The World Health Organization and the CDC, the Center for Disease Control, have explicitly warned against linking infectious diseases to specific ethnicity because of the stigmatizing effects, which has serious impacts on health and defeating the virus.  As CDC chief medical officer has said, ‘Stigma is the enemy of public health.’ 

Anti-AAPI bigotry violates our bedrock American values and undermines our fight against the coronavirus.  And it must end.  And that's why we must do our part to combat hate.  That is why I’m proud to support this resolution.  Proud to bring it to the Floor as an appropriate and excellent statement of values and good use of our time, instead of giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people in our country at the expense of our children and their future. 

It calls on public officials to condemn and denounce any and all anti-Asian sentiment in any form, recognizes that the health and safety of all Americans, no matter their background, must be of the utmost priority.  We are, none of us, safe until all of us are safe.  Condemns all manifestation and expressions of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, anti-Asian sentiment, scapegoating and ethnic or religious intolerance and calls on the federal law enforcement officials working with state and local officials to investigate and collect data on hate crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.  And it recommits our leaders to diversity and inclusion, including in our response to COVID-19. 

This resolution has the support of hundreds of organizations, including from the medical and scientific communities.  Now, I know science doesn't mean much to you, because you are anti-science, but the scientific communities – the American College of Physicians recently wrote a letter of support for this resolution stating that, and I quote, an ‘Essential step to support the health and safety of our nation in a national crisis… Hate crimes [directed] against individuals based on individuals' race, ethnic origin, ancestry, primary language, cultural background or nationality, are a true public health threat.’  It goes on to say, ‘It is imperative that physicians, and all people, speak out against hate and discrimination, especially during this national crisis [caused] by COVID-19… At this challenging time, our nation's focus should be on respecting the dignity of [others].’  That should always be the case.  ‘We cannot allow prejudice and discrimination to divide us.’

Let me just close by adding this.  We have a tremendous opportunity – as I said, we passed four bills, four bills that were overwhelmingly bipartisan.  The CARES Act has done some good things for our country.  It also gave an enormous – practically $150 billion tax break to the wealthiest in our country, and made it retroactive.  What did that have to do with the coronavirus?  Making a tax break for the wealthy retroactive?  It just possibly – they just, they can't pass a bill without doing something at the high end and then roaring about when we want to help working class families in our country.  And anyway, our counter to that bill was called the Take Responsibility bill, the Take Responsibility Act. 

Those two bills came together, we were able to find our common ground, even though we had to swallow some bitter pills in order to help America's working families as well as small businesses in our country.  And why does it have to be so hard?  Because there is an anti-science attitude in this Congress and in this Administration.  There is an anti-governance.  There is contempt of science.  There is disdain for state and local government, which does so much for our country. 

Don't take it from me.  The Chairman of the Fed is saying that, recognize that state and local government are an important part of our economy.  Don't take it from me that we cannot open our economy unless we crush this virus.  And that is exactly what the Fed, Chairman of the Fed said yesterday.  It is essential to do this.  But it takes money and it takes respect for science and respect for the advice of scientific leaders in our country.  That has been absent.  Instead, they play a blame game, and who pays the price?  The Asian American community in our country. 

That's why it was essential for us to follow Grace Meng's lead and that of the Hispanic, Asian Pacific and Black Caucus leadership today.  I thank, again, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee for his leadership in bringing this important legislation to the Floor.  One of many, we have many bills that we will – that we have taken up and we will take up next week as we try to work together to find our common ground.  And one thing that we are working on right now is to keep government opened.  Because while they may have an anti-governance attitude, we know that that is something that we have to make our compromises to keep government opened. 

Madam Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to use my congressional one-minute, Speaker's one-minute to salute the leadership, thank the sponsors of this legislation.  You bring luster to the House of Representatives when you enable us to associate ourselves with the great values of our country to respect the dignity and worth of everyone in our country.  Never more important than in this time of great crisis in our country. 

Thank you.  I yield back the balance of my time.