The House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send a bill to the floor for the first time to create a commission to study reparations. The commission will consider making a “national apology” and recommend any “appropriate remedies” to Congress.
“The goal of this historical commission and its investigations is to bring American society to the new reckoning with how our past affects the current conditions of African Americans and to make America a better place to help and truly study the disadvantage,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who introduced the bill.
“This legislation is long overdue. H.R. 40 is intended to begin a national conversation about how to confront the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation and the enduring structural racism that remains endemic to our society today,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the committee.
Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) said: “Slavery was and still is evil. But reparations suggest “Black people are a hapless, hopeless race who never did anything but wait for white people to show up and help us.”
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) said the bill is “evil in its effect if not in its intent,” adding that “the bill is designed to reach into the dead past, revive its conflicts and reintroduce them into our age.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said: “This is about restorative justice. If you through your history benefited from that wrong that was done, then you must be willing to commit yourself to righting that wrong.”
A House panel advanced a decades-long effort to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves by approving legislation Wednesday that would create a commission to study the issue.
It’s the first time the House Judiciary Committee has acted on the legislation. Still, prospects for final passage remain poor in such a closely divided Congress.
The vote to advance the measure to the full House passed 25-17 after a lengthy and often passionate debate that stretched late into the night.
The legislation would establish a commission to examine slavery and discrimination in the United States from 1619 to the present.
The commission would then recommend ways to educate Americans about its findings and appropriate remedies, including how the government would offer a formal apology and what form of compensation should be awarded.
The bill, commonly referred to as H.R. 40, was first introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., in 1989. The 40 refers to the failed government effort to provide 40 acres (16 hectares) of land to newly freed slaves as the Civil War drew to a close.
Rep. Jerry Nader states how #HR40 is “intended to begin a national conversation” to address and confront how subjugation and segregation are a defining part of this nation. #Reparations #CivilRights pic.twitter.com/Dw73rXHrWv— Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) June 19, 2019
Today the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is holding the hearing on H.R. 40, which calls for a commission to “study and develop reparation proposals for African-Americans.” Follow along as we live tweet. #HR40 #reparations pic.twitter.com/SmzMYUXVwZ— Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) June 19, 2019