The Senate will likely vote on a bill addressing hate crimes against Asian Americans next week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday, after the Senate overwhelmingly. Schumer said that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are negotiating the number of amendments to be considered for the legislation.
"I expect the Republican leader and I, in consultation with the relevant committees, will be able to figure out an appropriate number of reasonable, germane, non-gotcha amendments for the Senate to consider," Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. The bill comes amid a spike in anti-Asian discrimination and violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Senate voted 92 to 6 on Wednesday to open debate on the bill, which would expedite the federal government's response to hate crimes against Asian Americans and strengthen guidance for state and local government hate crime reporting. Although Republicans had raised some concerns about the bill, Senate leadership reached an agreement wherein GOP lawmakers agreed to advance the bill in exchange for votes on certain amendments.
One such amendment is a bipartisan proposal by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal and Republican Senator Jerry Moran to provide grants to state and local governments to help improve hate crime reporting. Schumer said that Republican Senator Susan Collins also "has some modifications to the bill." Collins raised concerns about the bill on Tuesday, telling reporters that she disagreed with tying hate crimes specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are working with Senators Moran and Grassley and Collins in a very bipartisan way, and we should be able to wrap up this bill next week," Schumer said on Thursday.
Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono, one of the sponsors of the bill, told reporters on Thursday that senators are "working on some further language."
"So far, so good with Susan Collins, and I'll certainly be accepting the Blumenthal-Moran amendment," Hirono said. However, she said that many of the other amendments being discussed "have nothing to do with the purpose of the bill."
"One is if you think that you're going to be the victim of a hate crime, you can conceal and carry a gun, and then no state can prevent you from doing that. That would be not good because the state of Hawaii does not allow conceal and carry. So that is a non-starter amendment as far as I'm concerned," Hirono said. She added that many of the amendments seem to be "more ideologically posturing than having anything to do with the bill."
GOP Senator Josh Hawley, one of the six senators who voted against advancing the bill, called it "hugely broad [and] hugely open-ended."
"I'm aware of folks who want to offer amendments who'd like to see it narrowed," Hawley said.
The legislation comes after mass shootings in the Atlanta area last month which killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. There has also been a significant uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes over the past year.
President Biden met with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus on Thursday, including Hirono. Speaking to reporters before the meeting, Mr. Biden said he was "very heartened" by the vote in the Senate on Wednesday advancing the legislation.