Sheila Jackson Lee presses Congress to pass reparations bill at DC march

Bonnie Cash

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) on Friday used her speech at a march in Washington to call on Congress to pass her bill to study paying reparations to Black Americans.

“I understand the words of — Dr. Martin Luther King said that the Negro people have been given a bad check — a check which has come to be marked ‘insufficient funds,’” she said. “Today we stop the insufficient funds, and we put money in the bank, because we’ve got to heal this nation.”

“We will not stop until the nation knows Black Lives Matter, and reparations are passed as the most significant civil rights legislation of the 21st century,” Jackson Lee added.

Friday’s march, organized by civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, marks the 57th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

It follows a summer of nationwide protests for racial justice after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, on May 25. Demonstrations erupted again this week after police in Kenosha, Wis., shot another Black man, Jacob Blake, multiple times in the back, paralyzing him.

Jackson Lee referenced the police shootings as a reason why “we can’t wait” to pass the reparations bill and another bill she co-sponsored, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House in June but has stalled in the Senate following the introduction of a competing GOP measure.

“We can’t wait when those assigned to protect and serve are able to grab the T-shirt of a Black man named Jacob and point a gun in his black skin and shoot seven times,” she said.

Jackson Lee’s bill would fund a committee to explore whether Black Americans should receive reparations for slavery. It does not directly introduce payments to those harmed by slavery and its legacy, but the commission — composed of members appointed by the White House and both chambers of Congress — would study racial iniquities and recommend policy solutions.

Jackson Lee said in June that the bill is attracting greater interest among Congressional Black Caucus members since Floyd’s death on May 25, and she hoped that momentum will result in a House floor vote before year’s end.

The measure has 147 co-sponsors in the House, all Democrats.

If the House were to vote on and pass the bill, it would likely stall in the Senate, where Republican leaders have shown no interest in pursuing reparations legislation.

Tags March on Washington Reparations Sheila Jackson Lee Slavery

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