Backers of a reparations bill say they have enough votes to pass the legislation in the House after decades of lobbying, The Washington Post reports.
More than 30 years after the bill was introduced, the House is set to advance a bill to create a commission to study reparations for Black Americans.
“This has been a 30-plus year journey,” Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee told the Post. “We had to take a different approach. We had to go one by one to members explaining this does not generate a check.”
The commission would hear testimony from supporters and opponents of reparations.
“Reparations is about repair and when you repair the damage that has been done, you do so much to move a society forward. This commission can be a healing process — telling the truth can heal America,” Jackson Lee said.
Bill doomed in the Senate:
Despite the progress in the House, the bill is doomed in the Senate unless Democrats can whip up enough votes and eliminate the filibuster.
Supporters of the legislation say they instead intend to push President Joe Biden to sign an executive order to create the commission.
The bill would require a months-long study so supporters are clamoring for Biden to act now so that his administration can implement the commission’s recommendations before his term expires.
Biden has not commented but said during his campaign that he supports an in-depth study of reparations.
Former President Barack Obama said in an interview last year that reparations are “justified” but the “politics of white resistance and resentment” made the issue a “non-starter” during his presidency.
Idea faces opposition:
A Washington Post poll last year found that 65% of Americans oppose cash reparations, including 92% of Republicans.
The idea is backed by two-thirds of Black Americans but only 18% of white Americans.
But there has been some movement over the years. In 1999, a poll found that only 19% of Americans supported reparations.
“The idea of H.R. 40 is to respond to those who say my family didn’t have enslaved people, it’s not my fault,” Jackson Lee said. “What I say to them is be very assured, we will not be knocking on individual White people’s doors demanding money for African Americans. But for slavery, for the hanging of thousands of Black people, for Jim Crow laws, for the horrible segregation laws of the 20th century, for the segregation of the United States military, for redlining, your government has a responsibility because it was all government-sanctioned. Your government has a debt.”