Black senators introduce anti-lynching bill

Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHillicon Valley: New York says goodbye to Amazon's HQ2 | AOC reacts: 'Anything is possible' | FTC pushes for record Facebook fine | Cyber threats to utilities on the rise O’Rourke heading to Wisconsin amid 2020 speculation 2020 Dems slam Trump's plan to declare national emergency MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerO’Rourke heading to Wisconsin amid 2020 speculation 2020 Dems slam Trump's plan to declare national emergency NBC, CNN to host first two Democratic presidential primary debates MORE (D-N.J.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSenate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Senate passes bill to make lynching a federal crime Partnerships paving the way to sustain and support Historically Black Colleges and Universities 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 SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHillicon Valley: New York says goodbye to Amazon's HQ2 | AOC reacts: 'Anything is possible' | FTC pushes for record Facebook fine | Cyber threats to utilities on the rise O’Rourke heading to Wisconsin amid 2020 speculation Amazon to pay Bernie Sanders in federal income taxes: report MORE (Vt.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingDrama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry Warner, Burr split on committee findings on collusion Overnight Defense: Top general wasn't consulted on Syria withdrawal | Senate passes bill breaking with Trump on Syria | What to watch for in State of the Union | US, South Korea reach deal on troop costs 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 McConnellBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' Winners and losers in the border security deal House passes border deal, setting up Trump to declare emergency 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.