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Democrats work to pick up GOP support on anti-Asian hate crimes bill

Democrats work to pick up GOP support on anti-Asian hate crimes bill
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats are working to shore up Republican support for anti-Asian hate crimes legislation ahead of a key test vote.

The bill, from Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoIf you want Julie Su at the DOL, don't point to her resume Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Senate tries to shake off graveyard status MORE (D-Hawaii), currently has no GOP co-sponsors. But there’s a bipartisan effort underway to fold separate hate crime legislation from GOP Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranBottom line Hawley votes against anti-Asian hate crime bill Senate passes anti-Asian hate crimes bill MORE (Kan.) and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) into the bill, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide.

The hope is that agreeing to add the legislation into the Hirono bill wins over at least 10 GOP senators, the number needed to defeat a filibuster Wednesday when Democrats will try to begin debate on the bill. 

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Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE (D-N.Y.) is supportive of adding in the Blumenthal-Moran bill if it locks in the GOP votes, the aide added.

Schumer, who held a press conference on the bill Tuesday, argued that the end result should be bipartisan.

"The way to do that is for 60 senators is to vote to proceed to the legislation. I hope it will be many more than 60. Who would oppose this very simple but necessary legislation?" Schumer asked.

The bill from Hirono requires the Justice Department to designate an official to review coronavirus-related hate crimes, beef up state and local resources and examine "best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language" describing the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans haven't yet signaled if they would filibuster the bill, which would be their first filibuster under the Democratic-controlled Senate. 

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"I think we've got members who are interested in finding out more about what's in it? And perhaps having an opportunity to engage in a discussion about how to make it better, how to improve it, so we'll see what happens," Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 GOP senator, told reporters.  

Other GOP senators had flagged concerns, with Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel MORE (Texas) questioning if it was too limited and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Manchin touts rating as 'most bipartisan senator' MORE (Maine) saying that it seemed to have drafting errors. Neither said they would vote against it on Wednesday. 

Hirono, on Tuesday, urged Republicans to support the bill.  

"My hope is that we will have Republicans who will support this bill," Hirono said. "So we will go forward in hopes that you know what an attack on one group in our country is truly an attack on all of us."  

The legislation from Blumenthal and Moran, the "No Hate Act," aims to strengthen the reporting of hate crimes, offer support for law enforcement for hate crimes training and establish a hate crimes hotline. 

Schumer indicated that he intends to make the Blumenthal-Moran vote the first amendment that would get a vote as part of a potential debate on the Senate floor.  

“I can’t do that unless our Republican colleagues allow us to debate the bill," Schumer said. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Gaetz, Greene tout push to oust Cheney: 'Maybe we're the leaders' Free Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech MORE (D-Calif.) said the House would mark up the bill, introduced in that chamber by Rep. Grace MengGrace MengSenate locks in hate crimes deal, setting up Thursday passage Jim Jordan, Val Demings get in shouting match about police during hearing Senate aims to pass anti-Asian hate crimes bill this week MORE (D-N.Y.), in committee within a week and the House would "pass it immediately."

The Senate's vote comes amid an increase in hate crimes against the Asian American community. Eight people were killed during a spree of shootings in Georgia last month, including six women of Asian descent. 

A study by the California State University, San Bernardino, which looked at 16 cities, found a 149 percent increase in Asian-American hate crimes, even though overall hate crimes dropped by 7 percent in 2020. 

"This is a historic moment right now, the AAPI community. ... There has never been a situation during my lifetime that I've felt this level of fear," Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) told reporters, using an acronym that refers to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.