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Schumer announces support for slavery reparations bill

Chuck Schumer at a press conference. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told a small group of reporters Tuesday that he will support legislation proposed by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to establish a commission to study reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: As the top Democrat in the Senate, Schumer's support strengthens not only the legislation's future, but also benefits a continuing conversation on the reparations issue.

  • It presents a stark contrast with his Republican counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who opposes reparations for slavery.
  • "What McConnell said was just preposterous and that’s why I’m supporting this legislation," Schumer told us. "In his actions as majority leader, he's done nothing to combat bigotry."

What he's saying: "I’ve always believed racism is the poison of America," Schumer said.

  • Some of the opposition to reparations, he said, comes from those who maintain that slavery is a thing of the past. "The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is still with us and that’s why we need to do a lot more," he added.

Context: In June, Washington lawmakers held a hearing on reparations for the first time since 2007. That was technically a House subcommittee study of the lasting legacy of slavery and what to do to fix it.

  • While Schumer is throwing his weight behind the issue, he admitted that he's not an "expert" on this, saying he's going to follow the lead of what the commission ultimately decides is the right path forward.
  • His pitch to colleagues until then: "When a significant part of America is held back, all of America is held back."

The big picture: It's been a week in which racism has been on full display in Washington, after President Trump told Democratic congresswomen of color to "go back" to where they came from. Pushing forward on a commission to study reparations is one way for the Democratic Party to publicly stand against Trump on the issue.

Go deeper: Capitol Hill takes on reparations.