“The past year has been one of the most difficult periods in our nation’s history, and for some of our fellow Americans the pandemic has also resulted in an alarming uptick of racially based hate crimes,” the Marietta Democrat said. “Racism, bigotry and discrimination have no place in our communities. We must do our part to help stop all forms of violence here in America and all over the world.”
U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, said after the vote that she hopes the measure helps prevent future incidents.
“Thousands of hate crimes have been documented in every state over the last year,” she said. “Tragically, that number includes the March 16 Atlanta spa shootings where eight people, primarily of Asian descent, were killed.”
Republicans who spoke out against the bill said that it was well-intended but excessive in its calls for new crime reporting hotlines, data collections by law enforcement and grants to improve training for officers responding to hate-crimes incidents.
Texas U.S. Rep. Chip Roy said it was also unnecessary for the Atlanta spa shooting to be referenced as a catalyst for the bill since the accused gunman allegedly told law enforcement that race was not a motivating factor.
“I think we do our nation a disservice when we spend every waking moment on this floor divvying us up by race, and increasingly that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
Fulton County prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty and pursue hate-crime charges against the shooter on the account that Asian businesses were targeted, resulting in the deaths of the six women of Asian descent.
Clyde, from Athens, said he voted against the bill because he does not believe hate-crimes laws are needed in general.
“A crime is a crime,” he said. “If someone commits a crime, then punish them for the crime they’ve committed.”
Clyde did not respond to follow-up questions about whether he would also oppose laws that targeted crimes against people based on their religion, sexuality or occupation.
The House on Tuesday also debated, but did not vote on, a separate resolution that condemns the spa attacks and provides a brief tribute to all eight victims. The bill, H.R. 275, frames the spa shootings within the context of anti-Asian hate in America and notes that six women of Asian descent were among the dead.
This bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, has 116 Democratic co-sponsors, including all six from Georgia: McBath, Williams and U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop, Carolyn Bourdeaux, David Scott and Hank Johnson.
A vote on this legislation is scheduled for Wednesday.
HOW THEY VOTED ON S. 937, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee
U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia
U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta
U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton
U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta
U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta
U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Evans
U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome
U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro
U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville
Did Not Vote
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler