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CNN (2) From left: Reps. Val Demings and Jim Jordan
The debate over a bill to address the uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes grew heated on Tuesday after Republican Rep. Jim Jordan interrupted Democrat Val Demings, who quickly told the Ohio lawmaker, "I have the floor Mr. Jordan ... Did I strike a nerve?"
The bill — known as the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act — seeks to assign a Justice Department official to expedite reviews of potential COVID-19-related hate crimes and establish an online database to track such crimes.
The exchange between Demings and Jordan came in response to an amendment introduced by Republicans that would prevent the defunding of police departments, despite the fact that the the legislation as written would not strip law enforcement funding.
Calling the amendment "completely irrelevant," Demings drew on her own experience as a law enforcement officer (the Florida lawmaker previously served as chief of the Orlando Police Department).
"I served as a law enforcement officer for 27 years," Demings said. "It is a tough job. And good police officers deserve your support. You know, it's interesting to see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle support the police when it is politically convenient to do so. Law enforcement officers risk their lives every day. They deserve better And the American people deserve better."
When Jordan attempted to interrupt, Demings shot back: "I have the floor Mr. Jordan."
She continued: "Did I strike a nerve? Law enforcement officers deserve better that to be utilized as pawns. And you and your colleagues should be ashamed of yourselves."
When Jordan continued to interrupt, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler stepped in in an attempt to restore order.
As Jordan continued to interject, Demings admonished him.
"Mr. Jordan you don't know what the heck you're talking about," she said, accusing Jordan of using law enforcement officers as "pawns."
The argument continued to devolve, with the lawmakers shouting over one another as Demings could be heard telling Jordan, "This is emotionally charging for me because I was a law enforcement officer. I have watched them live and die, and you know nothing about that."
In the wake of the Atlanta-area spa shootings in March — which killed eight people, including six Asian women — Asian American lawmakers have introduced several pieces of legislation that they say will protect people from hate crimes.
President Joe Biden backs the legislation being debated Tuesday, which he said in a recent statement would "expedite the federal government's response to the rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting, and ensure that hate crimes information is more accessible to Asian American communities."
The findings of a study released last month of police department statistics shows that hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by nearly 150 percent in 2020, despite hate crimes overall dropping by 7 percent.
Some critics of Donald Trump — who referred to COVID-19 as the "China virus" and "kung flu" — have blamed the former president and his supporters for fueling the racism.
At Tuesday's hearing, Demings elaborated on the incident with Jordan in an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe on While morning, telling anchor Willie Geist the legislation "attempts to address the increase in violence to our Asian brothers and sisters, and I thought it was interesting that an amendment was presented by the Republican side of the aisle that talked about defunding the police."
Demings continued: "Let me make this clear: There was absolutely nothing in the legislation that talked about defunding the police ... to try to seize that very critical moment and use law enforcement as a political pawn to interject something that did not exist — it was not reality ... was just simply ridiculous."
A spokesperson for Jordan did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.