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Black Democrats Want Vote On Reparations This Month
U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX) listens at a rally during commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre on June 01, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Black Democrats want party leaders to agree to hold a vote on reparations this month, following the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

The Hill reported that members of the Congressional Black Caucus visited Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month on the anniversary of the massacre, and now they want “to stage a reparations vote” in order to get Congress “to launch a study into the delicate question of whether the country owes Black Americans restitution for slavery.”

These lawmakers, including Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), returned from the trip and began pushing Democratic leaders to hold a reparations vote.

“For those of us who went to Tulsa, it became even more apparent to us how important it is to pass H.R. 40 and to do so certainly before we leave for the August recess,” Johnson said, according to The Hill.

The outlet reported that Johnson also said the victims of Greenwood and their descendants never received compensation for the massacre, even from their insurance companies.

“We came away united with the strong feeling that now is the time to do [it],” Johnson added. “And so we will now address leadership with this newfound sense of energy and urgency.”

Lee echoed Johnson’s statement after returning from Tulsa and meeting descendants of the victims and three living survivors.

“Tulsa is ground zero, I believe, in terms of raising the level of awareness, and the whys, and the importance of reparations and getting H.R. 40 passed,” Lee said, as reported by The Hill. “We’re pushing hard. I don’t know of a date yet, but … I’m encouraging and urging and we’re hoping that this is seen as a priority and will be brought to the floor.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) sponsored H.R. 40, which would “create a commission charged with studying the long history of slavery in the United States — as well as the racial discrimination that followed the Civil War, up to today — and recommend ways to compensate living descendants,” The Hill reported.

In April, the House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation, since Democrats currently control Congress.

As The Hill noted, the issue of reparations is unlikely to be popular among more moderate Democrats as the party looks ahead to the midterm elections. From The Hill:

Republicans don’t appear ready to provide those Democratic moderates with any cover. Every GOP lawmaker on the Judiciary Committee had voted against the measure, largely out of concern that the outside commission would be stacked with Democrats and lead inevitably to astronomical cash payouts they say the Treasury can’t afford.

The partisan nature of the debate, combined with the concerns of moderate Democrats, means the legislation is hardly guaranteed passage if and when it does come to the floor. The legislation has 189 co-sponsors — all of them Democrats, most of them liberals — setting up what could be a divisive showdown between centrists and progressives at a time when leadership is fighting to hold the party together for the sake of passing Biden’s ambitious agenda.  

The Biden administration, of course, says it is in favor of studying reparations.

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