Sanders backs bill creating reparations study commission

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 candidates have the chance to embrace smarter education policies Bernie Sanders Adviser talks criminal justice reform proposal, 'Medicare for All' plan Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona 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 LeeJackson Lee: 'Racism is a national security threat' Most oppose cash reparations for slavery: poll Poll: Most Americans oppose reparations 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."
 
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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 HickenlooperThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Hickenlooper announces Senate bid Inslee drops out of 2020 presidential race 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 PelosiCutting tariffs is better than cutting payroll taxes to boost the economy Pelosi speaks with Israeli president after Trump controversy In debate over internet speech law, pay attention to whose voices are ignored 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.
 
Some House Democrats have backed direct reparations payments, whereas Sanders on Friday appeared to be sticking by his previous position that he wanted to focus on "distressed communities."
 
"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."
 
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.
 
 
Sanders has previously come under criticism for his comments on reparations. 
 
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."
 
"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.