Senate passes bill to make lynching a federal crime

The Senate on Thursday cleared legislation to make lynching a federal crime.  

The bill, introduced by Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisJ.J. Abrams, Shonda Rhimes to host Kamala Harris fundraiser Warren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses Pollster says 'it's certainly not looking good' for Trump ahead of 2020 MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses Citizens lose when partisans play politics with the federal judiciary Booker opens up about relationship with Rosario Dawson MORE (D-N.J.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSenate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court Breaking down barriers for American military families Top House Dem dismisses reparations as 2020 candidates endorse idea MORE (R-S.C.), makes lynching punishable as a hate crime.

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The bill previously passed the Senate in December, but it did not clear the then-GOP controlled House before the end of the 115th Congress. It passed on Thursday by a voice vote.

Booker said that "lynching is not a relic of the past," pointing to the attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago.

"Justice for the victims of lynching has been too long denied, and as we look forward we must collectively in this body make a strong, unequivocal statement," he added. 

Harris, speaking from the Senate floor, added that lynching is a part of the country's "uncomfortable history" that had never been "truly acknowledged" or "reconciled" with. 

"We must confront hate in our country. ... We are now making clear there will be serious, swift and severe consequences," said Harris, who along with Booker is running for the party's 2020 nomination for president. 

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. 

But, addressing the 2005 vote, the Senate legislation says that while an apology "moves the United States toward reconciliation and may become central to a new understanding, on which improved racial relations can be forged," legislation criminalizing lynching is still "wholly necessary and appropriate."

The measure will now go to the House.