A House of Representatives panel advanced a resolution on creating a commission to study payment of reparations to descendants of enslaved Black people on Wednesday (April 14), CBS News reported. It is the first time such a bill has made it this far in Congress.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 25-17 to move H.R. 40 for consideration on the full House floor. The author of the resolution, Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said that she would like to see the vote come sometime in the summer.
“We’re giving America the opportunity for redemption, for repair, for restoration, for also understanding the new America, which is so multicultural,” Lee said in a call with reporters on Thursday, put together by the ACLU.
The proposal would establish a group put together to analyze slavery and discrimination against African Americans from over the course of the past four centuries. After that, it would come up with recommendations on how to educate the nation on what those findings are and determine a formal apology and what form compensation should take.
The bill was first introduced in Congress by Michigan Rep. John Conyers in 1989, and he championed it for the rest of his time as a lawmaker. After his death in 2019, Jackson Lee picked it up and has supported it ever since, reintroducing it earlier in 2021.
H.R. 40 has 176 co-sponsors, but none of them are Republican. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan voiced his opposition to it, pointing his finger at Democrats.
“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 were never subject to the evil of slavery. That’s what Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are doing,” Jordan said, according to CBS News.
But Democrats balked at that notion, saying Jordan’s perspective misses the point.
“This notion of, like, I wasn’t a slave owner. I’ve got nothing to do with it, misses the point,” said , Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline. “It’s about our country’s responsibility, to remedy this wrong and to respond to it in a thoughtful way. And this commission is our opportunity to do that.”