Members of the Congressional Black Caucus outlined a list of legislation aimed at ending racial injustices, including a reparations measure that one lawmaker said will come up for a House floor vote in the future.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee told reporters Wednesday that Democratic leaders have promised to advance a measure that would establish a commission to study reparations for slavery, Jim Crow laws, and other policies that have hurt blacks and other people of color over the decades.
“The leadership in the House and the Senate Democratic leadership are certainly supporting this legislation,” Lee, a Texas Democrat, told reporters. “And we have a commitment for a markup and a commitment for the floor.”
A top House Democratic leader on Wednesday would not provide a firm date for consideration of the reparations measure or any of the other bills the caucus promoted at its press conference an hour earlier.
“They are all under consideration,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat.
Lee’s measure would create a 13-member commission to “address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery,” as well as racial and economic discrimination against African Americans.
The panel would make recommendations to Congress.
The measure has been introduced in Congress many times over the past 18 years but did not receive a formal hearing until last year in the House Judiciary Committee.
The measure moved back into the spotlight in the wake of widespread civil unrest over the deaths of black people in police custody.
“It is the government’s sanctions that denied African Americans their equality,” Lee said. “And as well, the government’s responsibility, with this 13-member commission, to design the responses to the continued death, murder, and inequities in our community.”
The caucus led its press conference with the reparations commission measure and outlined other proposals it wants the House to consider to address racial injustices.
“The purpose of this press conference is to discuss current efforts undertaken by members of the CBC to continue to address systemic racism,” caucus chairwoman Karen Bass, a California Democrat, said. “The difference this time is that CBC members will be supported by a national movement that is beginning to penetrate into the consciousness of Americans, that systemic racism, first of all, exists and how the manifestation of systemic racism impacts not just the lives of black people, but the entire nation.”
Among the measures is one sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, that would create the United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation.
Bass said the commission would examine each institution in the country to determine “the effects of slavery, institutional racism, and discrimination against people of color and how our history impacts laws and policies of the day.”
The CBC is also pushing for the House to take up a measure by Reps. Lee and Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi, that would mandate the removal of 13 statues of Confederate officers that now stand in the U.S. Capitol.
Members of the caucus said they would call for additional reforms to the criminal justice system, which they say disproportionately punishes blacks.
“We could start by ending mandatory minimum sentences that have decimated the African American community that has far too many African American males in jail when there were better alternatives to incarceration,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat. “We could start by removing the collateral consequences of incarceration so that when you come out of prison that you can go to college and receive government aid, and you could stay in public housing.”
The CBC also called on the Senate, which is controlled by the GOP, to take up the House version of police reform legislation, which did not receive much Republican support.
Senate Democrats blocked a GOP police reform bill, and the chances for passing a bipartisan measure now seem to be fading.
Caucus members insisted they are in talks with the GOP and Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican and author of his party’s police reform measure.
Both bills would condition federal funding to end police use of chokeholds, but the House bill goes much further by eliminating the use of no-knock warrants and removing qualified immunity for police.
“Let me just say that there are a number of Republicans through the whole debate last week who expressed interest in working on the issue,” Bass told reporters. “I have been in conversations with Sen. Scott, and those will continue.”
Author: Susan Ferrechio
Source: Washington Examiner: Congressional Black Caucus pushes for reparations commission in wake of civil unrest