Senate Filibuster Test Over Asian-American Hate Crime Bill

April 14, 2021by Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is poised to start debate on legislation confronting the rise of potential hate crimes against Asian Americans, a growing problem during the coronavirus crisis that will also test whether the chamber can push past partisanship on an issue important to many constituents.
Typically, the Democratic-sponsored COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act might quickly face a filibuster, opposed by Republicans who prefer a different approach. But under the Senate leaders’ agreement struck at the start of the year, Republicans and Democrats pledged to try to at least try to debate bills to see if they could reach agreement through the legislative process.
Ahead of Wednesday’s initial votes, several leaders of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Congress gave personal and heart-wrenching stories of the racism they and their constituents have faced, incidents on the rise during the virus outbreak.
“For more than a year, the Asian American community has been fighting two crises — the COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-Asian hate,” Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., a co-author of the bill, said Tuesday at the Capitol.
Meng described well-documented but “horrifying” images of people being shoved and beaten in public attacks, and of her own conversations with survivors, including the families of the victims of deadly shootings last month in Atlanta. Six of those killed were women of Asian descent.
“Combating hate should not be a partisan issue. It’s about the safety of all Americans,” Meng said.
The bill is the most substantive congressional response to what has been an alarming rise in racist sentiment against Asian Americans, fueled in part by derogatory language about the virus’ origins in China. Donald Trump, while president, played into that narrative with derisive nicknames for the virus. The moment harks back to earlier eras of racism against Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans and others of Asian heritage in this country.
Senate Republicans have panned the legislation for various shortcomings but have signaled they will not block it with a filibuster.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said as the “proud husband of an Asian American woman, I think this discrimination against Asian Americans is a real problem.”
McConnell is married to Elaine Chao, the former transportation secretary, and he said Tuesday he was hoping to work out an agreement with Democrats to at least debate the bill and consider potential amendments.
Final passage, however, remains uncertain.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer launched the process to consider the bill this week, testing whether enough Republican senators will vote to proceed. Any one senator can halt the process, and it takes 60 votes in the Senate, which is evenly split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, to overcome a filibuster.
Schumer said he was open to considering changes to the bill. He is in conversations with McConnell on a package of amendments that could be considered, according to aides.
“We cannot and must not remain silent,” Schumer said Tuesday. “There is no reason, no reason, this shouldn’t be a bipartisan bill that passes the Senate.”
A robust floor debate is rare for the Senate, which has ground to a halt due to pervasive partisanship. The gridlock has intensified calls from Democrats to change the filibuster rules to push past the opposition. Shy of taking that step, Schumer and McConnell had reached a tentative accord earlier this year to try to push past stalemates and allow senators to discuss and amend bills.
Several Republican senators indicated they would prefer to adjust the hate crimes legislation, but they are reluctant to exercise the filibuster on this bill. Opposing it could expose senators to claims they are being racially insensitive.
Leaving a caucus luncheon Tuesday, several GOP senators said they would not block the bill, but they were still looking at the legislation and proposed amendments to figure out what they would support.
“I don’t believe we should be allowing these types of hate crimes out there, whether it’s women or Asian Americans, so we’re going to take a look at the text,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. She said she wasn’t aware of any “major objections” from Republicans.
Though timely, the legislation is also modest, what supporters see as a first step in a federal response to the rise of Asian American hate crimes. It would assign a point person within the Justice Department to expedite the review of COVID-19-related hate crimes and provide support for local law enforcement to respond to such incidents. The department would also work to limit discriminatory language used to describe the pandemic.
One bipartisan amendment would beef up support to law enforcement, and others are expected.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, the bill’s co-author, told of her own experience. She said she is no longer comfortable taking a walk with her headphones listening to audio books because of the attacks on Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.
She said she hopes Republicans join in supporting the bill.
“An attack on one group in our country is truly an attack on all of us,” she said.

Political News

October 19, 2021
by Dan McCue
Fortenberry Accused in Indictment of Lying to FBI

WASHINGTON — Nine-term Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of lying to... Read More

WASHINGTON — Nine-term Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of lying to the FBI and concealing information from federal agents investigating campaign contributions illegally made to him by a Nigerian billionaire. The indictment stems from an FBI investigation... Read More

October 19, 2021
by Dan McCue
Administration Scaling Back Plan to Deepen IRS Scrutiny Into Bank Accounts

WASHINGTON - The Biden administration is reversing course on a proposal that would have required banks to flag private accounts... Read More

WASHINGTON - The Biden administration is reversing course on a proposal that would have required banks to flag private accounts to the Internal Revenue Service when an individual deposit or withdrawal exceeded $600. A revised plan, expected to be announced by Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden,... Read More

October 19, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Senate Wants Tougher Enforcement of Sanctions Against ‘Malign Actors’

WASHINGTON -- A Senate committee tried Tuesday to chart a better course through the minefield of monetary sanctions against U.S.... Read More

WASHINGTON -- A Senate committee tried Tuesday to chart a better course through the minefield of monetary sanctions against U.S. foreign adversaries. The Senate seeks to protect U.S. economic policies without trampling foreign entities that could be trading partners and allies. However, in an age of... Read More

October 19, 2021
by Dan McCue
Senate to Vote on Voting Rights Bill Wednesday, Despite Filibuster Threat

WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats are moving ahead with plans to vote on the Freedom to Vote Act Wednesday, despite Republicans’... Read More

WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats are moving ahead with plans to vote on the Freedom to Vote Act Wednesday, despite Republicans’ vow to block the bill. The bill, a slimmed down version of the For the People Act, a sweeping elections overhaul passed in the House earlier... Read More

Texas Lawmakers Pass New Congressional Maps Bolstering GOP

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Republicans approved redrawn U.S. House maps that favor incumbents and decrease political representation for growing... Read More

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Republicans approved redrawn U.S. House maps that favor incumbents and decrease political representation for growing minority communities, even as Latinos drive much of the growth in the nation's largest red state. The maps were approved late Monday night following outcry from... Read More

October 18, 2021
by Reece Nations
Texans to Decide on Proposed State Constitutional Amendments

Early voting for eight propositions to amend the Texas Constitution starts on Monday throughout the Lone Star state. The Texas... Read More

Early voting for eight propositions to amend the Texas Constitution starts on Monday throughout the Lone Star state. The Texas Secretary of State’s office released explanatory statements for all of the constitutional amendments on the ballot ahead of the election. Constitutional amendments in Texas require the... Read More

News From The Well
Exit mobile version