Rep. Bobby Rush. Photo: Axios

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) criticized Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) attempts to block an anti-lynching bill that has bipartisan support, saying Friday the Kentucky senator wants to "gut the bill."

What he's saying: "I think he's acting as a scoundrel here. I think he’ll be treated and defined as a scoundrel that's standing in the pathway, standing in the doorway of passing a federal anti-lynching bill, after over 100 years of attempting to pass an anti-lynching bill," he said during a virtual Axios event on Friday.

The big picture: Rush introduced legislation that has bipartisan support called the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act that would make lynching a federal crime.

  • The Senate passed a version that is very similar to the House's, but Rush wants to keep Till's name in the bill. This week Paul put a block on the bill so it would not be considered.
  • Sens. Kamala Harris, Bobby Scott and Cory Booker have spoken to Paul to gain his support.
  • Paul introduced changes he said "would prevent those involved in minor altercations from being charged with lynching and receiving a 10-year sentence," per USA Today.

Background: There have been about 200 efforts in the past to pass a law to make lynching illegal.

  • The bill is named in memory of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black teenager who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

For the record:

  • "I think he's trying to gut the bill," Rush said. "I really believe he's trying to gut the bill, and the bill is a compromise. It's not my original wording."
  • "If it doesn’t pass now, then I don't believe that it will pass."
  • "I'm an optimist. I'm a praying man. I really believe that this bill has reached a moment, lending a confluence of history coming together in this time. That there's going to be a public outcry ... and there's no federal legislation in this time against lynching."

Of note: Rush is also planning to introduce an additional piece of legislation dealing with federal crimes and lynching as soon as next week that would define the death of George Floyd as a lynching.

Watch the virtual event

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