Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday will try to advance a bill that could lead to reparations for Black Americans as part of a broader effort to address centuries of enslavement followed by modern-day institutional racism.
It faces an uphill climb in Congress, where prominent Republicans oppose the measure and none have joined the 175 Democrats who signed on as co-sponsors. Representative Jim Jordan, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee that is scheduled to vote on the measure on Wednesday, intends to oppose it, an aide said.
The measure would establish a commission to draft reparation proposals. It would be modeled on a commission Congress approved in the 1980s to document the World War Two forced removal and incarceration of thousands of Japanese-Americans.
“This is not a cry for a handout. It is a cry for an acknowledgement that there has never been a response to the unpaid labor that helped build this nation,” Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee said at a Monday news conference.
The idea is gaining traction in some parts of the United States. The Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, last month became the first U.S. city to offer reparation money to Black residents.
The action coincides with anti-racism protests in cities across the country and while a former Minnesota police officer is on trial, accused of murdering a Black man, George Floyd, in one of a long series of killings that have stirred outrage.
Even if the bill passes the Democratic-controlled House, where it would need a simple majority, it would face a higher hurdle in the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans would have to join all 50 Democrats in support of the bill for it to pass.
When the measure was last debated in Congress in 2019, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell voiced his opposition.
“No one currently alive was responsible” for enslaving Black people brought to America during centuries of slave trade, he said at the time. A McConnell spokesman on Wednesday said he did not have anything to add to previous statements.
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