This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime
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 Trump’s desk.
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act — introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (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 Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement.
“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.
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 Harris (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 Booker (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.”
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 Shalala (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.
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 Nadler (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 Barr 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 Stone than the initial seven- to nine-year recommendation made by federal prosecutors. Stone was sentenced to 40 months.
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 McConnell (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 Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (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.
The Senate will vote on two abortion-related measures by the end of the week.
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 Cruz (R-Texas) and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (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.
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.