Senate

Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill

Senate Republicans are signaling that they will allow for a debate of an anti-Asian hate crimes bill, defusing a potential filibuster standoff that was expected to come to a head on Wednesday.

Democrats will force a vote on Wednesday on proceeding to the bill from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), a move that will require 60 votes including the support of at least 10 GOP senators.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an advisor to Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), stopped short of saying there was "unanimous" support among Republicans to allow the bill to come up but "there was a lot of interest in getting on the bill."

"I think the discussion generally was in favor of getting on it and seeing if we ... get some amendments," Cornyn said after a closed-door GOP caucus meeting.

Hirono's bill would require the Justice Department (DOJ) to appoint an official to oversee the expedited review of coronavirus-related hate crimes, bolster state and local resources and have the administration issue guidance on "best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language" describing the coronavirus pandemic."

But the bill has no GOP cosponsors, raising the prospect that it could be filibustered. However, those tensions appeared to be waning Tuesday.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) both said that they would vote to proceed to Hirono's bill.

"I think it's an important issue and one that's worthy of our consideration," Murkowski said.

A senior Senate Democratic aide also disclosed earlier Tuesday that there was an effort underway to pick up GOP support, including folding in separate hate crimes legislation from Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in exchange for Republicans agreeing to start debate on the Hirono bill.

Moran said there was "broad support" among Republicans for his amendment and discussions underway about trying to wrap up the entire hate crimes bill on Thursday.

Senate leaders are currently discussing a potential deal on amendments with Democrats, hoping that they could pass the bill as soon as this week.

"I'm hoping we can work out an agreement to get on the bill in a normal way, have some amendments, and move to final passage," McConnell told reporters.

Outbrain