Black senators introduce anti-lynching bill

Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick MSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony Booker2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE (D-N.J.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition To boost minority serving institutions, bipartisan Future Act needs immediate action Cruz to oppose Trump appeals court pick 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 SandersSanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Krystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans 2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MORE (Vt.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year 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 McConnellOvernight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' 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.