The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would establish a commission to study providing Black Americans with reparations for slavery. The legislation will receive a full House vote for the first time since it was introduced more than three decades ago.
The bill, which passed the committee despite opposition from Republicans, would establish a 13-person commission to study the effects of slavery and discrimination in the US, and then submit its findings and recommend to Congress “appropriate remedies” for the descendants of enslaved Americans.
“This legislation is long overdue,” said Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the committee chairman, according to the AP. “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.”
The bill was introduced by Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. No Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the bill, which is co-sponsored by 176 representatives, all Democrats.
In his criticism of the bill, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said it would “spend $20 million for a commission that’s already decided to take money from people who were never involved in the evil of slavery and give it to people who are never subject to the evil of slavery,” ABC reported.
The bill faces an uphill battle in Congress, especially in the Senate where it would require 60 votes in the 50-50 split chamber, AP reported.
Reparations gained renewed traction last year after a summer of protests against racial injustice. President Joe Biden has also said he supports Congress studying the issue. Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Insider’s Bre’Anna Grant that he’s “more hopeful than ever” for reparations since Biden took office.
Perry said that while “executive actions are rarely ever enough, they are a start to allocate and shift resources to address the issue.”
The legislation would ban the use of neck restraints at the federal level, get rid of “qualified immunity” for police officers, and prohibit no-knock warrants in federal drug cases.
Under current law, qualified immunity prevents public officials from being held personally liable for wrongdoing that occurs while on the job, making it difficult to sue police officers. Democrats tried to get rid of it last year, saying doing so would make it easier for police officers to be held accountable for misconduct.
The latest reform bill was passed after President Joe Biden indicated support for it on Twitter and in a statement on Monday.
“To make our communities safer, we must begin by rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the people they are entrusted to serve and protect. We cannot rebuild that trust if we do not hold police officers accountable for abuses of power and tackle systemic misconduct – and systemic racism – in police departments,” the statement said.
House Democrats tried to pass a version of the bill last year but were blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes in order for it to become law.
Some Republicans have said the bill would make it harder for police to do their jobs. On the House floor Wednesday, GOP Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida said the bill would “weaken and possibly destroy our community’s police forces,” NPR reported.
But Rep. Karen Bass, who introduced the latest legislation, said she believes lawmakers will work together to pass the bill in the Senate, NBC reported. “Many of our Republican colleagues said they thought they could get to yes on this, but they had some difficulties,” Bass said of last year’s bill.
The bill also outlaws racial profiling, establishes a national registry of police misconduct, and requires state and local agencies to report use of force data by categories that includes race, sex, and religion.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday suggested that Vice President Kamala Harris could be impeached in a future Republican-controlled House after former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial for “incitement of insurrection.”
During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham harshly criticized the trial record, calling it a “joke,” before pivoting to Harris, a former US senator for California who has been in her new position for less than a month.
Graham, who was one of the 43 Republican senators that voted to acquit the former president, on Saturday said “the case presented to the Senate by the House Managers was based on hearsay after hearsay combined with media reports.”
“We’ve opened Pandora’s box to future presidents,” Graham expressed on Fox News. “If you use this model, I don’t know how Kamala Harris doesn’t get impeached if the Republicans take over the House because she actually bailed out rioters and one of the rioters went back to the streets and broke somebody’s head open. We’ve opened Pandora’s box here and I’m sad for the country.”
After Harris asked her Twitter followers “to help post bail for those protesting on the ground in Minnesota,” Trump and Republicans like Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas tried to conflate peaceful demonstrators fighting for racial justice with those who were actually rioting in the streets.
According to The Washington Post, few of the protesters actually needed assistance from the Minnesota Freedom Fund, and roughly 92 percent of the people charged during the protests weren’t required to post bail.
In a series of executive actions announced on Tuesday, President Joe Biden will halt any new contracts between the Department of Justice and private prisons.
Three other orders on racial justice address housing discrimination, a recommitment to “tribal sovereignty” for Native Americans, and a memorandum directing the Department of Health and Human Services along with the DOJ to help prevent xenophobia against Asian Americans.
The new administration also came down harshly on the Trump regime’s legacy.
A senior official told reporters on a conference call that racial tensions and xenophobia were exacerbated by the “offensive and dangerous” tone set by leadership in the Trump administration.
The new executive actions from President Biden were framed as part of a broader initiative in a news release from the White House.
Susan Rice, Biden’s director of the of the Domestic Policy Council, said at an on-camera briefing early Tuesday afternoon that private prisons were the main focus of this order, while private detention centers used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “may or may not” be addressed later on.
Rice said private prisons used by DOJ were found to be “less safe, less secure, and arguably less humane.”
A group of over 100 pastors criticized the campaign strategy of GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, calling her out for political attacks against Democrat Raphael Warnock which they feel have devolved into “a broader attack against the Black Church.”
“We call on you to cease and desist your false characterizations of Reverend Warnock as ‘radical’ or ‘socialist,’ when there is nothing in his background, writings or sermons that suggests those characterizations to be true, especially when taken in full context,” they wrote in an open letter, which was released on Saturday.
In a year where racial and social justice have been at the forefront of the national debate, especially among many Black parishioners, the pastors slammed Loeffler for criticizing Warnock as he addressed those very same issues.
A group of over 100 pastors blasted the campaign strategy of GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, calling her out on Saturday for political attacks against her Democratic opponent, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, which they feel have devolved into “a broader attack against the Black Church.”
In an open letter, signed mostly by Black clergy leaders local to Georgia while some live out of state, the group criticized the Loeffler campaign’s fervent depiction of Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, as a “radical” and “a socialist.”
“We call on you to cease and desist your false characterizations of Reverend Warnock as ‘radical’ or ‘socialist,’ when there is nothing in his background, writings or sermons that suggests those characterizations to be true, especially when taken in full context,” they wrote.
In a year where racial and social justice have been at the forefront of the national debate, especially after the May 25 death of George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis, the pastors slammed Loeffler for criticizing Warnock as he addressed those very same issues.
“Your most recent attacks against Warnock for sermons condemning police brutality, advocating criminal justice reform, and expressing support for measures to reduce gun-violence – all concerns of his congregation – are beyond the pale and cannot go unaddressed by members of the faith community,” they wrote. “The reprehensible falsehoods must stop!”
The pastors accused Loeffler of failing to address issues of racial justice, which are highly resonant among Black voters, saying that she showed “disdain for Black elected officials and Black Lives Matter marches against systemic racism.”
The pastors also called out Loeffler for decrying religious-based attacks against Amy Coney Barrett during the conservative jurist’s Supreme Court nomination process while employing what they feel are religious-based attacks against Warnock.
“We witnessed how Conservatives uproariously cried foul when anyone asked how Amy Coney Barrett’s faith might affect her rulings as she was under consideration for the high court,” they wrote. “We remember your tweet characterizing those perceived attacks against Barrett as ‘disgusting’ but now you characterize Warnock’s religious convictions as ‘despicable, disgusting, and wrong.’ You continue to parse and take out of context decades old utterances by Warnock from the pulpit.”
“My faith is the foundation upon which I have built my life,” he wrote. “It guides my service to my community and my country. [Loeffler’s] attacks on our faith are not just disappointing – they are hurtful to Black churches across Georgia.”
On Sunday, Loeffler responded to Warnock on Twitter, writing that “no one attacked the Black church.”
“We simply exposed your record in your own words,” she added. “Instead of playing the victim, start answering simple questions about what you’ve said and who you’ve associated yourself with. If you can’t – you shouldn’t be running for U.S. Senate.”
In the letter, the pastors also pivoted to Black voting rights, saying that Loeffler’s endorsement of President Donald Trump’s continued legal action against the 2020 election results is an affront to Black voters.
“We witnessed your naked hypocrisy as you supported 59 attempts at the delegitimization of Black votes with meaningless lawsuits by the Trump campaign operatives,” they wrote. “What can be more radical, more seditious than supporting 59 attempts to overthrow the will of the people by tossing Black votes?”
Loeffler and Warnock are locked in a tight January 2021 runoff election in Georgia, which will determine control of the Senate and take place just weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
A separate runoff election, also set for January 5, will feature a contest between GOP Sen. David Perdue, who is running for reelection to a second term, and his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff.