House Condemn Racism Against Asian-Americans, Including References to ‘Chinese Virus’

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted 243-184 on Sept. 17 to adopt a non-binding resolution (H Res 908) to condemn expressions of racism, discrimination or religious intolerance against Asian-Americans related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes terms such as “Chinese Virus,” “Wuhan Virus” and ”Kung-flu.”

Among Alabama’s representatives, one voted for the Democratic-sponsored measure, four voted against it and two did not vote.

Mark Takano, D-Calif., said the measure would counter “the xenophobic anti-Asian rhetoric that President Trump and his allies have been using to distract us from their woefully inadequate response to COVID-19 … fueling racism and inspiring violent attacks on Asian Americans and Asian immigrants.”

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said: “At the heart of this resolution is an absurd notion that referring to the virus as the Wuhan virus or the China virus is the same as contributing to violence against Asian Americans, which I will tell you nobody on this side of the aisle supports.”

A yes vote was in support of the resolution.


Voting yes: Terri Sewell, D-7 

Voting no: Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6

Not voting: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Martha Roby, R-2 

Congress took on other major issues during the legislative week ending Sept. 18:

Filing Private Lawsuits Against School Bias

Voting 232 for and 188 against, the House on Sept. 16 passed a bill (HR 2574) that would authorize private individuals to file “disparate impact” lawsuits under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This legal doctrine comes into play when government policies that appear neutral on the surface have the effect of discriminating against protected groups. Seemingly neutral policies affecting public schools are often alleged to have an unlawful disparate impact on minorities. This bill would override the 2001 Supreme Court ruling in Alexander v. Sandoval that denies private citizens the right to bring disparate impact claims against federally funded programs.

Bobby Scott, D-Va., said the bill “will restore the right of students and parents to address racial inequities in public schools,” where “discrimination increasingly comes in the form of coded terminology, structural inequality and implicit bias rather than explicit bigotry.”

Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said: “The creation of a private right of action would lead to additional burdens on already taxed state and local agencies, especially school systems who would have to defend themselves against tenuous allegations advanced by parents and activists.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting yes: Sewell

Voting no: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer 

Addressing Anti-Semitism Under Title VI

Voting 255 for and 164 against, the House on Sept. 16 broadened the duties of officials empowered by HR 2574 (above) to monitor compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under the GOP-sponsored motion, these overseers would have to treat anti-Semitism as prohibited discrimination under Title VI, even though the Department of Education and Department of Justice started doing that as early as 2010, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Title VII is the part of the Civil Rights Act focused on religious discrimination. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs receiving federal assistance.

Sponsor Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said that under her measure, “We can ensure that recipients of federal education funding are doing all they can to protect members of our communities from horrific anti-Semitism.”

Bobby Scott, D-Va., called the motion “a political attempt to insert religion into Title VI” and divert attention “from that core idea that people who have been discriminated against ought to be able to get into court.”

A yes vote was to adopt the motion.


Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer

Voting no: Sewell­­

Accommodating Pregnancy in the Workplace

Voting 329 for and 73 against, the House on Sept. 17 passed a bill (HR 2694) that would require private-sector firms and government agencies with at least 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations for workers and job applicants who are pregnant or have recently given birth. The bill would not require employers to make accommodations that impose undue hardship on their operations.

Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., said: “Reasonable accommodations can range from providing seating, water and light duty to excusing pregnant workers from tasks that involve dangerous substances. But when pregnant workers do not have access to the accommodations they need, they are at risk of losing their job, being denied a promotion or not being hired in the first place.”

Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said: “House Republicans have long supported protections in federal law for all workers, but especially pregnant workers,” noting that “there are already important protections under federal law to prevent workplace discrimination, including federal laws that rightfully protect pregnant workers.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting yes: Sewell

Voting no: Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer 

Not voting: Byrne, Roby

Granting Exemption Based on Religion

Voting 177 for and 226 against, the House on Sept. 17 defeated a Republican bid to exempt employers from having to make reasonable accommodations under HR 2694 (above) in cases where to do so would deprive them of religious freedom protected under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said the bill “does not currently include a longstanding provision from the Civil Rights Act that protects religious organizations from being forced to make employment decisions that conflict with their faith,” and therefore it would “create legal risks for religious organizations and their religiously backed employment decisions.”

Bobby Scott, D-Va., said the motion “would jeopardize women’s health and risk their pregnancies in order to provide a religious exemption for employers.” He said, “The bill does not in any way amend or change the underlying exemptions in title VII of the Civil Rights Act or Americans with Disabilities Act or any other (law).”

A yes vote was to adopt the GOP motion.


Voting yes: Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer

Voting no: Sewell

Not voting: Byrne, Roby 

Promoting Integration in Public Schools

Voting 248 for and 167 against, the House on Sept. 15 established a grant program to promote integration in school districts where opportunity is sharply divided along racial and economic lines. The bill (HR 2639) would provide a limited number of districts with funding to develop strategies for increasing the diversity of student populations shaped by de facto segregation. The bill is patterned after a $10 million-per-year Obama administration program, killed by the Trump administration, in which up to 20 school districts received grants to develop pilot programs for increasing racial and economic diversity.

Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, said: “Racial segregation in public education has been illegal for more than 66 years in the United States. Still, American public schools are more segregated today than at any time since the 1960s … (not) because the law requires it. They are segregated by their ZIP codes.”

Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. called the bill a “mandate that would have the federal government decide how best to address the issues of racial and socioeconomic isolation in America’s schools. … Creating more government programs that have to scramble for funding in order to operate successfully is the last thing we need to foster the best environment for all students to learn.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting yes: Sewell

Voting no: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer 

Defeating Republican Diversity Plan

Voting 171 for and 243 against, the House on Sept. 15 defeated a Republican alternative to HR 2639 (above) that proposed open-ended funding in the form of block grants rather than narrowly defined categorical grants to increase diversity in K-12 classrooms.

Sponsor Rick Allen, R-Ga., said his amendment is needed because “Democrats have decided the teachers unions are more important to them than real families who are desperate for access to a better education for their children.”

Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, said: “I have no idea what bill (Republicans) are reading. There is nothing in this bill about teachers’ unions or anything else that they are talking about.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer 

Voting no: Sewell


Confirming Judge Valderrama

Voting 68 for and 26 against, the Senate on Sept. 17 confirmed Franklin U. Valderrama, a Circuit Court judge in Cook County, Illinois, as a United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. Valderrama was an attorney in private practice before joining the Cook County bench in 2007, and he has taught pre-trial civil litigation at the University of Illinois-Chicago John Marshall Law School.

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R, Doug Jones, D 

Voting no: None


The House in the week of Sept. 21 will take up a clean energy bill and join the Senate in debating stopgap government funding for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.