House Panel Makes History in Vote to Advance Slavery Reparations Bill

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Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were unanimous in voting against the measure.

A House panel has made a historic move after voting to pay reparations to the descendants of enslaved people by approving legislation Wednesday that would create a commission to study the issue, CBS News reported.

It's the first time the House Judiciary Committee has acted on the legislation. The vote was a heavily-debated one and passed with with 25 in favor of the creation of a panel and 17 against it.

The bill, known as H.R. 40, was first introduced by the late Representative John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, in 1989. The 40 refers to the failed government effort to provide 40 acres, or 16 hectares, of land to newly freed enslaved people as the Civil War drew to a close, CBS News reported.

Congress says on their website that H.R. 40  “establishes the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. The commission shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. Among other requirements, the commission shall identify (1) the role of the federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society.”

While it is unknown when the bill will be voted on to move to the next stage by the House. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas and the bill’s sponsor, told CBS News she hopes the full House could vote on it this summer.

Should the bill pass in the house, it would then face a vote with the evenly divided Senate, NPR reported.

"This legislation is long overdue," Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the committee told CBS News. "H.R. 40 is intended to begin a national conversation about how to confront the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation and the enduring structural racism that remains endemic to our society today."

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