Vote Establishes Commission on Slavery Reparations

House Judiciary Committee advances bill HR 40
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 15, 2021 7:21 AM CDT
House Panel Votes to Study Slavery Reparations
Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, center, listens as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., right, attends a markup in the House Judiciary Committee of a bill to create a commission to study and address social disparities in the African American community.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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, per the AP. 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. Bill HR 40, first introduced in 1989, 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.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the committee's Democratic chairman, said the bill was "long overdue." But it has no Republicans among its 176 co-sponsors and would need 60 votes in the evenly divided Senate, 50-50, to overcome a filibuster. Republicans on the committee were unanimous in voting against the measure. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican, said Democrats had essentially "decided to take money from people who were never involved in the evil of slavery and give it to people who were never subject to the evil of slavery." But Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, noted that the Federal Housing Administration at one time refused to insure mortgages in Black neighborhoods while some states prevented Black veterans of World War II from participating in the benefits of the GI Bill. This commission is an opportunity "to remedy this wrong," he said.

(More reparations stories.)

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