Black senators introduce anti-lynching bill

Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Obama reveals his summer playlist Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-N.J.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottIt's time to empower military families with education freedom GOP Sen. Tim Scott says if he runs in 2022 it will be his last race When it comes to student debt, it is time to talk solutions 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 SandersBernie SandersTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy Sanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Sanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses MORE (Vt.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingBipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year New intel chief inherits host of challenges Senators ask for committee vote on 'red flag' bills after shootings 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 McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast 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.