Posted on April 14, 2021

House Committee Prepares to Vote on Historic Slavery Reparations Bill

Nikki Schwab, Daily Mail, April 14, 2021

The House Judiciary Committee is set to vote Wednesday on the reparations bill, H.R. 40, which aims to establish a 13-person commission to study whether the descendants of slaves should receive compensation from the U.S. government.

An estimated 40 million black Americans could receive some sort of payment to the tune of trillions of dollars.

The move comes a day after President Joe Biden reiterated his support for the study during a meeting with leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus.

‘We did bring up the issue of reparations,’ Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the resolution’s primary sponsor, told reporters outside the White House Tuesday at the conclusion of the meeting. ‘We have heard not only from the president, but the White House and his team, that he is committed to this concept.’

‘We are grateful for that,’ she added.

Lee noted that Wednesday’s vote will be the first time the reparations bill will be marked up and potentially make it through committee.

There’s no guarantee the legislation will make it to the House floor – or would survive that vote, as the Democrats hold an extremely narrow majority.

There’s even less of a chance it would make it through the Senate, as 10 Republicans would need to sign on to make it filibuster-proof.

The resolution to study reparations was first introduced by the now late Rep. John Conyers in 1989 and was named after the ’40 acres and a mule’ that freed black Americans had been promised, but the federal government didn’t act on.

In a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the bill in February, witnesses provided the historical context for reparations – pointing out that government had paid them before.

Kathy Masaoka, co-chair of the Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, spoke of the reparations given to interned Japanese Americans, and also noted that the commission hearings – which H.R. 40 would green light – helped the healing process in the community.

North Carolina Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross spoke about how her state paid out reparations to those who were forcibly sterilized by the government.

‘I don’t believe that this particular resolution prescribes a way of going forward, but it’s a conversation about what we need to do,’ Ross said. ‘And just as we did in North Carolina, when we passed a bill compensating people for forced sterilization, a terrible, terrible chapter in our history.’

More recently, Evanston, Illinois became the first city in the country to approve a reparations plan to help black resident who were hurt by the municipality’s housing laws.

The plan has a narrow scope and would give $25,000 in grants to black residents or their descendants who lived in the city from 1919 to 1969 and suffered from housing discrimination.

Residents who suffered housing discrimination after 1969 at the hands of the city are also eligible for the money.

The money can be used to help buy a home, pay down a mortgage or for home improvements.

In 2019, Evanston approved a $10 million reparations fund, with the money coming from legal cannabis sales. An initial $400,000 was set aside for the housing reparations.

Republican witnesses at the February hearing argued it could be difficult to figure out a scope of who would benefit.

‘Where would the money from from? Does it come from all the other races except the black taxpayers? Who is black? What percentage of black must you be to receive reparations? Do you go to 23andMe or a DNA test to determine the percentage of blackness?’ asked former National Football League player Herschel Walker, one of the GOP witnesses.