Chip Somodevilla / Pool / AFP via Getty Images
A bill setting up a commission to develop proposals to help repair the lasting effects of slavery is approaching a vote in Parliament – almost three decades after its introduction.
Fresh debate on the issue of compensation for the descendants of slaves comes amid a national bill of race and justice.
The House Judiciary Committee took up the bill Wednesday night and was expected to vote on the measure for the first time since the former Democratic rep. John Conyers originally introduced it in 1989. This year, the legislation has the support of more than 170 Democrats. co-sponsors and key congressional leaders.
Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, main sponsor of the bill, HR 40, has said it would be a “cleansing” for the country to bring it to a vote on the floor of the House, and she challenged Republicans who argued such a commission was unnecessary. .
“I beg my friends on the other side of the aisle not to cancel us tonight. Do not ignore the pain, history and reasonableness of this commission,” Jackson Lee said Wednesday.
The bill would set up a 13-member commission that would examine the effects of slavery and racial discrimination, hold hearings and recommend to Congress “appropriate remedies.” This commission would also consider what form a national excuse could take for the harm caused by slavery.
Legislators who support the legislation say that today’s descendants of slaves continue to suffer from the long-standing legacy of slavery and persistent racial inequality.
“Understanding that the complex nature of racism has created a dynamic in which black people today must not only struggle to live in a country built on our persistent oppression, but also observe the modern manifestations of our daily lives,” the New York Democratic said. Rep. Jamaal. Bowman, who cited racial prosperity gaps as well as COVID-19 as examples.
Among proponents of compensation for slavery, there is some disagreement about what compensation may ultimately look like. Some have pushed for direct monetary payments to slave descendants. Others have said that there are various proposals that can be more realistic and could be brought into law.
Some proponents of HR 40 acknowledge that it would be challenging to get it passed in the Senate, given the threshold of 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and the narrow majority of Democrats. The bill faces Republican withdrawal in both chambers.
The Republican rep. Burgess Owens, who is black in Utah, said Wednesday that while “slavery was and still is an evil,” the issue of compensation is divisive and “speaks of us being an unhappy, hopeless race that never did anything but wait. “White people show up and help us, and that’s a hoax.”
In 2019, then-Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Rejected the replacement idea after Parliament held a hearing on the subject. He argued that it would be “difficult to figure out who to compensate.”
“I do not believe that compensation for anything that happened 150 years ago and for which none of us currently live is responsible,” McConnell said at the time.
Asked about the prospects for passage in the Senate, Democratic Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, chairman of a subcommittee on the judiciary, said Monday that “the Senate is not a good place to be with this legislation or with any legislation that is progressive, especially the African Americans. interests. “
“You’re going to have to have 10 Republicans right now,” he added, “and there are not that many of them who will stop and not run again and get to the moment of Jesus.”
President Biden met with members of the White House Congressional Black Caucus on Tuesday, and compensation was one of the topics discussed, according to lawmakers who attended the meeting.
Texas’ Jackson Lee told reporters that “we have heard from not only the president but the White House and his team that he is committed to this concept.”