Story at a glance

  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said President Biden supports a study of slavery reparations.
  • Psaki’s comments came as a House Judiciary subcommittee hosted a hearing Wednesday to discuss H.R. 40, formally known as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.
  • While the White House has signaled support for a reparations committee, Psaki on Wednesday stopped short of saying Biden would sign H.R. 40 if passed by Congress.

The White House on Wednesday said President Biden supports studying whether descendants of enslaved people in the U.S. should receive reparations. 

“He’s supported a study of reparations. I believe that’s what’s being discussed and studying the continuing impacts of slavery, which is being discussed in this hearing on H.R. 40, and he continues to demonstrate his commitment to take comprehensive action to address this systemic racism that persists today,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday. 


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Psaki’s comments came as a House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a virtual hearing Wednesday to discuss H.R. 40, formally known as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. 

The measure would establish a commission that examines slavery and discrimination in the U.S. from 1619 to present day and recommends appropriate remedies, including possible compensation for Black Americans and ways to educate the American public on the the legacy of slavery. 

The legislation was first introduced by the late former Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan in 1989 and was reintroduced every session until his retirement in 2017, although the bill went nowhere. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) reintroduced the legislation in January. The bill has 162 co-sponsors, all Democrats. 

“We believe in determination, and we believe in overcoming the many bad balls that we have been thrown; we’ve caught them, and we’ve kept on going. That is not the point of H.R. 40,” Lee said during the hearing. 

“Now more than ever, the facts and circumstances facing our nation demonstrate the importance of H.R. 40 and the necessity of placing our nation on the path to reparative justice,” she said. 

While the White House has signaled support for a reparations committee, Psaki on Wednesday stopped short of saying Biden would sign H.R. 40 if passed by Congress or take executive action to establish such a committee.

“We’ll see where Congress moves on that issue,” Psaki said. 

The push for reparations for slavery has gained momentum on Capitol Hill and became a hot issue during the 2020 election as nationwide protests against racial injustice flared last summer following the police killing of George Floyd.


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Published on Feb 17, 2021