The House Judiciary Committee will vote Wednesday on establishing a commission on reparations — potentially granting perks to people eight generations removed from slavery.
The measure is expected to pass with Democratic support following a meeting this week between the Congressional Black Caucus and President Biden.
The Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act — first introduced by late-Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in 1989 and recently reintroduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) — could lead to upwards of 40 million African-Americans receiving payments if signed into law.
The mark up comes on the heels of members of the Congressional Black Caucus meeting with President Joe Biden on Tuesday, where lawmakers said the president indicated support for the measure.
“Let me indicate that we did bring up the issue of reparations, the Congressional Black Caucus is the conscience of the nation, the Congress and our communities. And the reason is because we are solely the organization that can bring up the question of racism, acknowledge it, pointedly asked about it,” Lee told reporters following the meeting.
“And note that it does exist in this country, even though we are collaborative, and we work with all groups, when we fight and cure racism, we will in fact see America’s Promise. I think that is the understanding of social justice issues which include HR 40 the commission to study and develop reparation proposals. So we did not leave it out, and we have heard from not only the president but the White House, and his team, that he is committed to this concept.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) argued that the measure is needed to help bridge racial disparities in the United States.
“Long after slavery was abolished, segregation and subjugation of African Americans was a defining part of this nation’s policies that shaped its values and its institutions. Today, we still live with racial disparities in access to education, health care, housing, insurance, employment and other social goods that are directly attributable to the damaging legacy of slavery and government-sponsored racial discrimination,” he said in a statement.
While a sizable number of Democrats have voiced support for the legislation, Republicans have voiced concerns the bill could be divisive and costly, with some estimates bringing the price tag to $12 trillion.
“I can’t imagine a more divisive, polarizing, or unjust measure than one that would require those that never owned slaves to pay reparations to those who never were slaves,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said during a hearing earlier this year.
The legislation also faces a steep climb in the upper chamber, where it would need to garner 60 votes to be sent to the president’s desk.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) previously signaled it would earn little support from GOP lawmakers.
“We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African American president,” he said in 2019. “I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that.”