This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime
© Moriah Ratner

The House is slated to vote this week on legislation that would classify lynching as a federal hate crime, paving the way for the bill to head to President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pitches Goya Foods products on Twitter Sessions defends recusal: 'I leave elected office with my integrity intact' Former White House physician Ronny Jackson wins Texas runoff MORE’s desk.

The Emmett Till Antilynching Act — introduced by Rep. Bobby RushBobby Lee RushFauci: Institutional racism playing role in disproportionate coronavirus impact on Black community Bobby Rush likens Chicago police union to KKK: 'Racist body of criminal lawlessness' Rep. Bobby Rush says Chicago officers lounged in his office as nearby stores were looted MORE (D-Ill.) — is scheduled to come to the floor on Wednesday. 

“This legislation is long overdue, but it is never too late to do the right thing and address these gruesome, racially motivated acts of terror that have plagued our nation’s history,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi 'absolutely' willing to push August recess to work on coronavirus relief The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - California a coronavirus cautionary tale as it retrenches to stave off infections 70 progressive groups call for next Foreign Affairs chair to reflect 'progressive realism' MORE (D-Md.) said in a statement. 

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“As we renew our commitment to confronting racism and hate during Black History Month, the House will take this historic step to demonstrate that commitment, and I hope this bill receives strong bipartisan support.”

The legislation is named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in 1955 in Mississippi. 

It comes roughly 120 years after the first House legislation to criminalize lynchings was defeated in committee, and nearly a century after the House passed its first bill, by Rep. Leonidas C. Dyer (R-Mo.), that would have made lynchings a federal crime. Dyer’s bill was filibustered in the Senate. 

Rush noted the fatal racially motivated shooting that took place in El Paso, Texas, and the violence seen during the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., while citing the need for the bill to be brought to the floor. 

“We are one step closer to finally outlawing this heinous practice and achieving justice for over four thousand victims of lynching, including Emmitt Till. Moreover, the importance of this bill cannot be overstated. From Charlottesville to El Paso, we are still being confronted with the same violent racism and hatred that took the life of Emmett and so many others. The passage of this bill will send a strong and clear message to the nation that we will not tolerate this bigotry,” he said in a statement. 

The term lynching also sprung back into the spotlight last year after Trump used it in reference to the impeachment process. His tweet sparked outrage from Democrats and a public rebuke from Republicans, who called the phrase “unfortunate” and “inappropriate” because of the word’s long-standing link to racial violence within the United States. 

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Congress has tried but failed to pass anti-lynching legislation roughly 200 times since 1918. The Senate passed legislation in 2018 to make lynching a federal hate crime, but it failed to pass the then-GOP controlled House. They then passed the legislation for a second time last year. 

“Lynchings were horrendous, racist acts of violence,” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Senators raise concerns over Facebook's civil rights audit Biden's marijuana plan is out of step with public opinion MORE (D-Calif.), one of the sponsors of the Senate bill, said in a statement. “For far too long Congress has failed to take a moral stand and pass a bill to finally make lynching a federal crime. ... This justice is long overdue.”  

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: California backtracks on reopening as cases soar nationwide; SoapBox CEO David Simnick says nimble firms can work around supply chain chokepoints to access supplies for sanitizers and hygienic materials In politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' MORE (D-N.J.), who also sponsored the Senate bill, added that he was “ humbled and grateful” that the House would vote on the anti-lynching legislation. 

“While we cannot undue the irrevocable damage of lynching and its pervasive legacy, we can ensure that we as a country make clear that lynching will not be tolerated,” he added.  

The Senate had also passed a resolution in 2005 apologizing to lynching victims. 

But, addressing the 2005 vote, the Senate legislation says that while an apology "moves the United States toward reconciliation and may become central to a new understanding, on which improved racial relations can be forged," legislation criminalizing lynching is still "wholly necessary and appropriate."

Smoking

The House will take up a bill that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, a move aimed at reducing youth vaping rates. 

“The House will take up legislation to address the youth vaping and e-cigarette epidemic by prohibiting the manufacturing and sale of all flavored tobacco and increasing the user fee on nicotine to discourage young people from buying these dangerous products, among other provisions,” Hoyer said in a “Dear Colleague” letter on Friday. 

The measure, led by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaDunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel John Kerry hosting virtual campaign events for Biden The sad spectacle of Trump's enablers MORE (D-Fla.), comes after Congress raised the age to buy tobacco products to 21 last year. 

The bill would also bar the sale of tobacco products online. The Trump administration recently banned the sale of flavored e-cigarette pods. 

Critics of the measure argue that flavored vaping products are beneficial for adults looking to wean their way off smoking cigarettes. 

Surveillance

Lawmakers are turning their attention to an upcoming fight over reauthorizing expiring provisions in the USA Freedom Act. 

Congress has until March 15 to extend the handful of provisions after tucking a 90-day extension into a short-term spending bill passed late last year. 

The House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees have been working on legislation, which has not yet been introduced. But Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse GOP lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19 Texas Democrat proposes legislation requiring masks in federal facilities Nadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' MORE (D-N.Y.) has penciled in the USA Freedom Act reauthorization to be included in a committee business meeting on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Attorney General William BarrBill BarrACLU calls for special prosecutor to investigate removal of protesters in front of White House First federal prisoner in 17 years executed hours after Supreme Court decision Supreme Court clears way for federal executions MORE is scheduled to attend a closed-door GOP lunch on Tuesday, where he will discuss the upcoming debate on reauthorizing the expiring provisions. The administration has asked Congress to reauthorize each provision, including a controversial records program, known as Section 215, that gathers metadata on domestic text messages and phone calls. 

It will be Barr’s first face-to-face meetings with most senators since the Justice Department sparked a political firestorm by asking for a “far less” sentence for Trump associate Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneRobert Mueller casts a Stone — but he can't erase larger concerns READ: Trump order commuting Roger Stone's prison sentence Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself MORE than the initial seven- to nine-year recommendation made by federal prosecutors. Stone was sentenced to 40 months. 

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Two sources told The Hill that the meeting with Senate Republicans was arranged weeks ago, before the current flare-up in tensions. 

"Reauthorization of these certain programs is a priority for both Leader McConnell and AG Barr," a source said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSara Gideon wins Democratic race to challenge Susan Collins Schumer pushes for elimination of SALT deduction cap in next coronavirus relief bill Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel MORE (R-Ky.). 

The request to extend authorization for the call records program puts the administration at odds with a wide-ranging coalition in Congress, from progressives to libertarian-minded Republicans and even key chairmen. 

Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Biden campaign adds staff in three battleground states Exclusive investigation on the coronavirus pandemic: Where was Congress? MORE (R-N.C.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerUS praises British ban on China's Huawei after pressure campaign GOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls MORE (D-Va.), the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, respectively, introduced legislation late last year that would formally end the call records program, which has already been shuttered by the NSA, while providing an eight year reauthorization for two other provisions — one authorizing “roving” wiretaps and the other on "lone wolf" surveillance authority. 

Abortion

The Senate will vote on two abortion-related measures by the end of the week. 

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Neither is expected to get the votes required to overcome an initial procedural hurdle, but it will force Democrats to go on record months ahead of the November elections. 

The two votes will also come as Republican activists are expected to pour into Washington for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Several lawmakers, including Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMJ Hegar wins Democratic battle to challenge John Cornyn The Hill's Campaign Report: Key races take shape in Alabama, Texas, Maine 5 key races to watch on Tuesday MORE (R-Texas) and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyUS praises British ban on China's Huawei after pressure campaign Some in Congress want to keep sending our troops to Afghanistan Biggs, Massie call on Trump to remove troops from Afghanistan MORE (R-Wyo.), are expected to speak at the conference. 

The first, from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), would ban abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions for the life of the mother and victims of rape or incest. Doctors who violate the bill could face up to five years in prison. 

The second bill, from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), would penalize doctors who fail to "exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion."

Senate Democrats previously blocked Sasse's bill last year and similar legislation from Graham in 2018.

Nominations

McConnell has teed up the Senate to vote on four nominations before the abortion votes. 

The Senate will start with a procedural vote on Robert Molloy’s district judge nomination on Monday night. 

After a final vote on Molloy’s nomination on Tuesday, the Senate will turn to Silvia Carreño-Coll’s district judge nomination, Katharine MacGregor’s nomination to be Interior deputy secretary and Travis Greaves’s nomination to be a judge for the U.S. tax court.