Apr 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House Judiciary Committee advances reparations bill in historic vote

Sheila Jackson Lee

Sheila Jackson Lee. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee voted 25 to 17 Wednesday to advance a bill that would create a commission to study reparations for Black Americans who are the descendants of slaves.

Why it matters: "No such bill has ever come this far during Congressional history of the United States," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who sponsored the bill, per the Washington Post.

  • The same reparations bill advanced on Wednesday was first introduced in the House in 1989, but never received a committee vote.
  • The racial justice protests of 2020 have given new wind to the movement to pass reparations legislation, but the bill still faces formidable Republican opposition.

Details: If passed, the bill would create a 13-person commission to "study the effects of slavery and racial discrimination, hold hearings and recommend "appropriate remedies" to Congress," per the Post.

  • What form these remedies would take is still up for debate. Jackson Lee told the Post that the committee would offer Congress a variety of proposals on how to end economic, health, and educational racial disparities.
  • President Biden has affirmed his support for a study on reparations and is open to considering potential legislation recommended by the commission, NPR reports.

Yes, but: Republicans remain firmly opposed to the idea of reparations.

  • "I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in 2019.
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