WASHINGTON – Legislation to create a commission to investigate the restitution of slavery for black Americans cleared a house committee in an historic vote on Wednesday and found its way to the full house for the first time more than three decades after its inception.
The law, HR 40, was first introduced 30 years ago and is now facing a full vote in the House of Representatives. Should it happen to the House, the measure would go to the equally divided Senate.
The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted between 25 and 17 on Wednesday to propose the bill.
The bill would set up a 13-person commission to investigate the enduring effects of slavery and ongoing racial discrimination throughout the country’s history. The panel would submit its findings to Congress and recommend any necessary corrective action, including compensation for black Americans.
The Legislature or Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans is currently sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.
In a statement, Jackson Lee said the judicial committee vote was “long overdue”. For more than two decades before her, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., Introduced it year after year to no avail.
Lee said Conyers trusted her to continue the legislation when he retired.
“I took this challenge seriously and here we are today, marking it for the first time in American history with legislation that directly addresses the years and centuries of slavery of Africans and African-Americans who are now the descendants of those Africans” Lee said during the hearing on Wednesday.
The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other black Americans – including the recent death of Daunte Wright – have drawn attention to racial inequality in public consciousness and sparked renewed debate on how America’s history of racism against African Americans – including redress – is resolved can be.
Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., Vice chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, told the US TODAY Tuesday night that it hoped there would be openness to real discussion on the matter and asked, “We haven’t had this last year educated or re-educated us about injustices, historical injustices? “
Reparations – or redress for historical crimes and misconduct aimed at eliminating injustice and making particular groups of people or populations prosperous – have been largely experimented in international settings.
“By passing HR 40, Congress can also start a movement towards the national reckoning we need to bridge racial segregation. Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation – and the hope that one day all Americans will come together can work towards a fairer future. ” Said Jackson Lee.
Dean said she believed “the study of reparation is the sensible thing.”
according to According to an estimate by William Darity, an economist at Duke University whose research deals with inequality in the context of race, and Kirsten Mullen, a historian, the cost of compensating Americans for the inheritance of bondage as well as descended from the subsequent suppression of the breed, up to $ 12 trillion.
In the United States, support for reparations for the federal government’s role in slavery has grown and met with skepticism. Although Congress officially apologized for slavery for the first time in 2008, HR 40 still encountered opposition.
Opponents of the bill called it divisive, arguing that Americans today should not be held responsible for the consequences of the slavery that ended with the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865.
“Nobody should be forced to pay compensation for what they didn’t do,” said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. “Paying reparations would mean taking money from people who never had slaves to compensate those who were never enslaved.”
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., A member of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, told the US TODAY Tuesday evening that he would not vote for redress or set up a commission to investigate the problem and was looking forward to the discussion on Wednesday.
Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat on the committee,said ahead of the vote she hoped Republicans would approach this “with an open mind and an open heart”.
“I hope that we can get closer to the idea of justice, the idea of justice and the idea of looking back on our history to do what is right in the future. I hope they are open and political,” said they completed.
Studies have shown that the net worth of a typical white family is almost ten times greater than that of a black family. Black Americans are also less likely to own homes than other racial and ethnic groups. The black poverty rate is twice as high as the white one.
After an analysis Von Mullen and Darity, reparations could lead to the black and white prosperity gap being closed within 10 years.
If the legislation moves to a full House vote and is passed, it would have little chance of reaching the Senate.
When then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Was asked about the issue in 2019, their great-great-grandfathers enslaved people At cotton farms in Alabama, he said in a hearing on the matter that he didn’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago and for which neither of us are currently responsible was a good idea. We tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing groundbreaking civil rights laws, by electing an African American president. ”
Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J., has submitted a companion version of the bill that would require the support of at least 10 Senate Republicans to advance beyond filibuster in the Senate.
President Joe Biden said in February He supported the study of reparations for black Americans.
The leaders of the Black Caucus of Congress met with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for the first time at the White House on Tuesday and set out their political vision, which included talking to the government about reparations.
Featuring: Kim Hjelmgaard, Matthew Brown, Chelsey Cox