Black senators introduce anti-lynching bill

Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi Harris2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser McConnell: I won't be intimidated by protesters Booker seizes on Kavanaugh confirmation fight MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ Booker seizes on Kavanaugh confirmation fight Dem senator: Kavanaugh would 'turn back the clock' on women's health care MORE (D-N.J.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs Congress should prioritize diversity so government reflects Americans MORE (R-S.C.) — the Senate's only African-American lawmakers — rolled out legislation on Friday to make lynching a federal crime.

The legislation would make lynching — "the willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person" — punishable as a hate crime.

“Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our history, and we must acknowledge that, lest we repeat it,” Harris said in a statement on Friday.

Booker added that Congress's inability to pass anti-lynching legislation is "a travesty."

In addition to Booker and Harris, who are both viewed as potential 2020 White House contenders, 18 other Democratic senators and Independent Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersShowtime says Sacha Baron Cohen did not dress as 'disabled veteran' 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser Ocasio-Cortez floating progressive sub-caucus MORE (Vt.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingHillicon Valley: Hacker tried to sell military docs on dark web | Facebook fined over Cambridge Analytica | US closer to lifting ZTE ban | Trump, Obama lose followers in Twitter purge | DOJ weighs appeal on AT&T merger Senators press federal election officials on state cybersecurity 'Paws for Celebration' event brings rescue animals to the Capitol MORE (Maine) are supporting the legislation. 

Scott, the Senate's only black GOP senator, is the only Republican who has signed on to the bill so far. 

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"This measure is certainly well past due, and I am glad to be able to join in efforts that will underscore the severity of this crime,” Scott said in a statement. “This piece of legislation sends a message that together, as a nation, we condemn the actions of those that try to divide us with violence and hate.”

To get the bill through the Senate, Booker, Scott and Harris will need either the support of 60 senators or a deal to pass the bill by a voice vote. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Overnight Defense: Washington reeling from Trump, Putin press conference Feehery: The long game MORE (R-Ky.) was asked recently if he would support an anti-lynching law and appeared surprised Congress hadn't already passed one.

"Gosh, I thought we did that many years ago. ... Honestly, I hadn't thought about it. I thought that was done back during LBJ or some period like that. But if we need one at the federal level, I certainly would support it," he said. 

Congress has tried but failed to pass anti-lynching legislation roughly 200 times since 1918, according to Harris's office. In 2005, the Senate passed a resolution apologizing to lynching victims. 

Friday's legislation, addressing the 2005 vote, said a bill is still "wholly necessary and appropriate."

"Notwithstanding the Senate’s apology and the heightened awareness and education about the Nation’s legacy with lynching, it is wholly necessary and appropriate for the Congress to enact legislation, after 100 years of unsuccessful legislative efforts, finally to make lynching a Federal hate crime," the legislation says

The Senate legislation is backed by the Anti-Defamation League, Equal Justice Initiative and the NAACP.