Sen. Ted Cruz was one of six senators who voted against efforts Thursday to consider toughening laws regarding COVID-19 related hate crimes, saying the plan “is not designed to do anything to prevent or punish actual crimes.”
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act would create a Justice Department position solely to review hate crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic, establish an online hate crime reporting system and issue guidance on the best practices to prevent racially discriminatory language when describing the pandemic.
The bill defines a “COVID-19 hate crime” as violence motivated by the attacker’s real or perceived notion that their victim’s identity relates to the spread of COVID-19.
Cruz, a Texas Republican, said he doesn’t believe the bill will serve its intended purpose.
“It is instead a Democratic messaging vehicle designed to push the demonstrably false idea that it is somehow racist to acknowledge that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China,” Cruz said. “And that the Chinese Communist Party actively lied and suppressed information about the outbreak, allowing it to become a global pandemic.”
While the World Health Organization has confirmed that the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser has raised concern over the information China has provided to the WHO regarding the origins of the outbreak.
The Senate Thursday agreed to consider the bill, with a final vote expected next week. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, voted for consideration. The final vote for consideration was 92-6.
Cornyn would not commit to voting for the final bill. “I just voted to get on the bill,” he said. “My vote at the end is going to depend on whether there is a fair and open amendment process.”
Republicans submitted nearly 30 amendments to the bill, including four each by Cruz and Cornyn.
The introduction of the bill by Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono last month comes as attacks targeting Asian Americans have increased almost 150% from 2020 to 2021, according to analysis released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
“Over the last year we’ve seen businesses defaced with anti-Asian graffiti, elders verbally accosted on the street, women assaulted and eight people murdered in cold blood at Asian-owned businesses in Georgia during an unprovoked attack,” Hirono told the Senate.
Cornyn said these crimes are “unacceptable,” and his amendments all relate to increasing penalties for COVID-19 hate crimes, including death penalty eligibility.
“If it’s perpetrated against anybody, regardless of ethnicity, or race, or color, but in particular I know there’s concern among Asian Americans,” Cornyn said. “I think we should demonstrate that we are sympathetic to that and we want to send a message.”
Cruz agreed that hate crimes are a serious problem.
“Racist violence is a serious problem, and anyone carrying out hate crimes against Asian-Americans — or anyone else — should be vigorously prosecuted,” Cruz said.
But he said that this legislation isn’t intended to do that.
“Congressional Democrats want to cover up the CCP’s cover-up,” he said. “That is the purpose of this legislation.”