The bill was passed overwhelmingly in both houses, which has been relatively rare in recent years, and was a product of bipartisan dealings that have escaped other highly charged issues.
In his remarks at the White House, Biden repeatedly underlined the bipartisan nature of the legislation as an achievement in a Congress that has often been polarized into paralysis. Biden also thanked Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, whom he loosely referred to as “the Kentucky state leader,” and the Republicans for not filibustering the move as some Democrats feared.
The negotiators reached an agreement to allow votes on a handful of amendments to the bill and made several changes to the legislative language, ultimately freeing the legislation for Congress.
Republicans at the beginning of the trial expressed concern that the legislation was intended to duplicate other hate crime laws and instead serve as a political beating against the GOP. Former President Donald Trump and other Republicans angered the Democrats and many Asian-American supporters by repeatedly referring to the coronavirus as “China virus” and using other inflammatory terms.
Hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans more than doubled in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year. according to a report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
Proponents say, however, that these numbers vastly underestimate the actual number of hate crimes and bias incidents that the law is meant to address.
“All of that hatred is in sight,” said Biden. “Too often there is silence. Silence through the media, silence through our politics and silence through our history. “
In his speech, Biden referred to several high profile attacks in recent times, including this year’s mass shootings in the Atlanta area that killed six Asian American women.
The bill has been criticized by proponents who say it doesn’t go far enough to get to the root of the problem, as well as by some liberals who dislike its emphasis on law enforcement in the face of wider accounting for police practices in the U.S.
Speaking to Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris discussed her diverse personal backgrounds and status as the first Asian American to hold the position.
“In my life, my lived experience, I have seen hatred permeate our communities,” Harris said. “I’ve seen how hatred can stifle our progress, and I’ve seen how people who unite against hatred can strengthen our country.”