Senate

McConnell: Reparations aren't 'a good idea'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said that he does not support reparations for descendants of slaves, a topic that has become a point of debate in the 2020 election cycle.

"I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none us currently living are responsible is a good idea," McConnell said. "We've tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We elected an African American president." 

McConnell was asked about reparations during a weekly press conference, which comes a day before the House Judiciary Committee will hold the first hearing on the issue in a decade.

"I think we're always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that, and I don't think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it. First of all, it would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate. ... No, I don't think reparations are a good idea," McConnell continued. 

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is holding the hearing Wednesday "to examine, through open and constructive discourse, the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice."

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) reintroduced legislation that was initially spearheaded by former Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) that calls for a study on reparations.  

The issue has become a topic of debate in the Democratic presidential primary.

Several 2020 candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), said while speaking at the National Action Network event earlier this year that they would sign a bill forming a reparation study commission into law if they become president.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has introduced legislation in the Senate that mirrors Jackson Lee's legislation, although it would form a commission and does not call for African Americans to receive payments.

Booker's office announced last week that his bill has received 12 co-sponsors, including several 2020 candidates.

But the legislation is unlikely to move in the GOP-controlled Senate or in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

"I think it's too remote in time. I think it's too divisive," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters earlier this year.

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