The House Judiciary Committee, in a historic vote Wednesday, advanced a bill that would establish a commission to study reparations and consider a national apology for slavery.
The bill advanced with a 25 to 17 vote.
H.R. 40 currently has 173 co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) resubmitted the legislation, originally introduced in the House in 1989.
“No such bill has ever come this far during Congressional history of the United States,” she celebrated.
The legislation has the potential to create a 13-person commission to “study the effects of slavery and racial discrimination, hold hearings and recommend ‘appropriate remedies’ to Congress.”
The commission would also “consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery.”
The significance of the House Judiciary Committee’s advancement of H.R. 40 can’t be understated. It means the bill now moves to a full House vote.
While Democrats still hold a tenuous margin in the House, they still have control, and the Senate is split with tie-breakers going to Vice President Kamala Harris.
Jackson Lee says reparations are necessary for a national “cleansing” for the country. Others disagree on the merits of such legislation providing compensation for something that happened long ago.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2019 said, “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea.”
Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT), at a House hearing to address H.R. 40 in 2019, obliterated Democrats for pushing the idea.
“I used to be a Democrat until I did my history and found out the misery that that party brought to my race,” Owens, who is black, revealed.
“Let’s pay restitution,” he continued. “How about the Democratic Party pay for all the misery brought to my race.”
While critics are many, President Biden and Barack Obama both support reparations.
Obama has said reparations are “justified” and suggests one of the reasons he couldn’t get it through during his tenure was due to “white resentment.”
And now, Biden is in charge.
Early last month, Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to President Biden, said the administration is “going to start acting now” on reparations for African-Americans.
“We have to start breaking down systemic racism and barriers that have held people of color back, and especially African-Americans who were enslaved,” Richmond said, noting Biden’s staunch support for H.R. 40.
“We’re going to start acting now,” he added.
Axios notes that the form “remedies” for slavery would take have not yet been settled upon.
Richmond contends it could be in the form of “free college tuition to [historically black colleges and universities].”
Others, like Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MN), have said in the past they would support any form of reparations for slavery, but noted her constituents particularly would like to see “direct payment.”
Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea of reparations.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll in June shows that only roughly 20 percent of Americans support the use of “taxpayer money to pay damages to descendants of enslaved people in the United States.”
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