Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFiscal conservatives should support postal reform Gallego went to New York to meet Sinema donors amid talk of primary challenge: report Five Democrats the left plans to target MORE (I-Vt.) said Friday that if elected president he would sign legislation creating a commission to study the issue of granting reparations to African-Americans.
Sanders, speaking at the National Action Network convention, was asked if he would support the bill introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeBlack Democrats hammer Manchin for backing filibuster on voting rights A presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day New Texas law limiting abortion takes effect Thursday MORE (D-Texas) if it reached his desk as president.
"If the House and Senate pass that bill, of course I would sign it," he responded. "There needs to be a study."
The issue of reparations for descendants of slavery has become a topic of debate among his fellow 2020 Democratic primary candidates, including Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHispanics sour on Biden and Democrats' agenda as midterms loom Officer who directed rioters away from senators says Jan. 6 could have been a 'bloodbath' Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections MORE (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFiscal conservatives should support postal reform Five Democrats the left plans to target Arizona Democratic Party executive board censures Sinema MORE (D-Mass.).
Several other 2020 candidates speaking at the National Action Network event — Harris, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperDemocrats race to squash Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill Biden addresses Coloradans after wildfires: 'Incredible courage and resolve' Equilibrium/Sustainability — Mars may start 'terraforming itself' MORE (D) — said they would sign the bill into law.
Meanwhile, Jackson Lee’s bill has picked up support in Congress, including from Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse leaders unveil bill to boost chip industry, science competitiveness with China Pelosi says she will run for reelection in 2022 Hoyer says 'significant' version of Build Back Better will pass this year MORE (D-Calif.). While it would form a commission to study the issue of reparations, it does not call for black Americans to receive payments.
"But let me also say this: I think that what we need to do ... is to pay real attention to the most distressed communities in America," Sanders said. "We have got to use 10 percent of all federal funds to make sure that kids who need it get the education, get the jobs, get the environmental protection that they need and that would be a major focus of my efforts."
Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro knocked Sanders last month for saying there were better ways to address the issue than "just writing out a check."
Sanders referred to legislation by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a Congressional Black Caucus member and the third-ranking House Democrat, that would require federal programs to direct at least 10 percent of their funds to communities where at least 20 percent of the population has lived below the poverty line for at least the past 30 years.
Clyburn and Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerDespite Senate setbacks, the fight for voting rights is far from over Small ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (D-N.J.), who is also running for the Democratic presidential nomination, introduced legislation this week that would expand the 10-20-30 model to apply to a broader set of federal accounts.
Sanders has previously come under criticism for his comments on reparations.
"However, it’s interesting to me that when it comes to 'Medicare for all,' health care, you know, the response there has been, ‘We need to write a big check.’ That when it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been that we need to write a big check," Castro told CNN.
Mike Lillis contributed.