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Legislation that would provide for reparations payments to descendants of American slaves has gained new life in the wake George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The oft-introduced legislation is being resuscitated by the Congressional Black Caucus and is likely to draw additional Democratic support over the summer as the party seeks to take political advantage of the times to push the bill, according to The Hill.
The initiative is being led by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). Her bill, H.R. 40, is attracting new interest within her caucus following the Floyd incident, which initially sparked widespread protests and rioting but which now appears to have been hijacked by more Left-wing militant elements, according to the Justice Department.
Lee wants to tap into the renewed interest in her bill so she can bring it to the House floor for what would be a historic vote before the end of the year.
“We now have an opportunity, through H.R. 40, to have the highest level of discussion about systemic racism and race. And we are able to do it in a manner that is bringing people together; that acknowledges that Black lives matter; and acknowledges that there has to be a response,” she said Tuesday, The Hill reported.
“There is no better time for H.R. 40 to be part of the national dialogue and part of the national legislative response.”
“We have to have a discussion on a number of issues — even those that might be uncomfortable for some,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the Rules Committee, said, The Hill noted. “I absolutely — I personally — believe that we should” take up Lee’s bill.
California’s Democrat supermajority has also taken advantage of the current political climate to advance reparations legislation.
Last month the state’s Assembly voted 56-5 to advance AB-3121, which would establish a commission to study reparations — how they would be paid, who would qualify and, importantly, what it would cost taxpayers.
“This bill would establish the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans … to, among other things, identify, compile, and synthesize the relevant corpus of evidentiary documentation of the institution of slavery that existed within the United States and the colonies,” the text of the legislation says.
“The bill would require the Task Force to recommend, among other things, the form of compensation that should be awarded, the instrumentalities through which it should be awarded, and who should be eligible for this compensation,” it adds.
Lee’s bill essentially does the same thing. It doesn’t call for direct payments to descendants of slaves, but rather would establish a “commission composed of members appointed by the White House and both chambers of Congress — to study racial iniquities and recommend policy solutions,” the Hill reported.
“Slavery is our original sin, and there are so many people of goodwill who want to find a response to over 200 years of bondage for the descendants of enslaved Africans. And we’re not dictating that response,” Lee noted further.
Slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment, among other things, provided for equal treatment under the law for blacks and minorities, as well as due process and other guarantees. The amendments were ratified in the years immediately following the Civil War.
In terms of costs, were an actual piece of legislation proposed requiring remuneration to descendants of former slaves passed, it’s unclear what amount would suffice.
Robert Johnson, the founder of the Black Entertainment Network (BET), recently suggested a figure of $14 trillion.
“Now is the time to go big,” Johnson said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” early last month.
“We need to focus on wealth creation and wealth generation and to do that we must bring the descendants of slaves into equality in this nation and that’s what I propose with this $14 trillion proposal.”
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