House Democrats passed a resolution Thursday condemning the harassment of Asian Americans and directly blamed President Trump amid reports of an uptick in such incidents nationwide.
The resolution, which passed 243-164 with 14 Republicans joining Democrats, is tangled in the larger debate around how the U.S. should address China’s role in the global pandemic.
Rep. Grace Meng, the resolution’s sponsor, said in a tweet that Mr. Trump’s use of the terms “China virus” and “Kung Flu” were making scapegoats of Asian Americans.
“This is wrong & dangerous,” she wrote. “Passing [the resolution] sends a unified message that such bigotry, hatred and xenophobia will not be tolerated.”
Ms. Meng, New York Democrat, voted for her bill via proxy.
The resolution doesn’t carry the weight of law but does express consensus of the House.
“Sadly this bigotry is being fueled by some in Washington, 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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said on the floor.
Republican leaders denounced the resolution, accusing Democrats of pushing it through to score political points and shying away from penalizing China.
“Did the virus start in China? Yes. Did it start in Wuhan, China? Yes. Did China lie to the United States about the severity and origins of this virus? Yes,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise deflected criticism of Mr. Trump by highlighting the fact that the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing in February titled “The Wuhan Coronavirus.”
They said the vote wasted time that could’ve been spent working on stalled coronavirus relief to get aid out to the American public.
Mr. Trump has doubled down on blaming China while insisting that the blame is not directed at Asian Americans.
While Democrats made it clear the resolution was aimed at Mr. Trump, the text didn’t name the president and called on all officials to condemn “any and all anti-Asian sentiment in any form.”
It also requests federal law enforcement to aid state and local efforts to collect data on harassment and hate crimes against Asian Americans.
The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action launched a website in March where people can report such incidents.
Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of groups tracking these reports, found that more than 2,500 incidents — ranging from physical attacks to verbal accosts to discrimination — have been submitted as of August. The vast majority of these anecdotal reports show Asian Americans being blamed for spreading the virus.
Data from Pew Research gathered in July found that Asian Americans were the most likely — compared to White, Black and Hispanic Americans — to report negative reactions from others because of their ethnicity since the outbreak began. Nearly 40% of Americans said it was more common to direct racist views at Asian Americans over the past year because of the pandemic.
In that same poll, 26% of Asian Americans said they feared being threatened or physically attacked.