Senate Republicans are reportedly weighing whether or not to spend their political capital stalling legislation aimed at addressing anti-Asian hate crimes across the country.
Specifically, Senate Minority Whip John Thune has raised the possibility of the GOP’s first filibuster under the Biden administration, telling Politico that his Republican colleagues are considering taking a vote to open the floor up for debate over the bill. Some Republicans, he told the outlet, may want “an opportunity to engage in a discussion about how to make it better, how to improve it.”
The bill, introduced by Democratic Congresswomen Mazie Hirono and Grace Meng, would designate a Department of Justice official to expedite the review of hate crimes reported during the pandemic and create a national online database of the reported incidents. The legislation also calls for the expansion of “culturally competent and linguistically appropriate public education campaigns” as well as federal guidances to “mitigate racially discriminatory language” sometimes used to describe the pandemic.
Given the content of the legislation, Democrats are more or less daring Republicans to make good on their word. “Who can’t say that hate crimes against Asian Americans and others [are] reprehensible?” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told Politico.
Unfortunately, Republicans rarely seem to care about optics and most members of the party are hardly above filibustering a bill against hate crimes if it’s politically expedient. I’m not sure if the legislation is as “unobjectionable” as Democrats are calling it—many Asian-American groups have condemned increased policing and law enforcement involvement as a response to the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. But of course Republicans don’t share these concerns, nor do they earnestly want to make the bill more robust and nuanced by debating it, as Thune cynically suggested.
Hirono was pessimistic about the bill’s chances of earning enough bipartisan support to overcome a filibuster: “Anything that the Democrats are putting forward as important, the Republicans tend to not support,” she said. “There you have it.”