Rand Paul holding up quick passage of anti-lynching bill
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) acknowledged on Wednesday that he is holding up quick passage of anti-lynching legislation, saying that he wants the bill to be clarified first.
Paul told reporters that if the bill is going to pass by unanimous consent — which any one senator can prevent — “there has to be some give and take” on its language.
“We want the bill to be stronger. We think that lynching is an awful thing that should be roundly condemned and should be universally condemned. I don’t think it’s a good idea to conflate someone who has an altercation where they had minor bruises with lynching,” Paul said.
“If you’re gonna call something an anti-lynching bill but you’re gonna have a new conspiracy charge for someone who has minor bruising, we don’t think that’s appropriate. And someone has to read these bills and make sure they do what they say they’re going to do rather than it be just a big PR effort,” Paul added.
The Senate last year passed legislation, authored by Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), to make lynching a federal hate crime. It was the second time the legislation cleared the Senate after the then-GOP-controlled House failed to pass the bill during the 115th Congress.
The House passed its own bill in February. But Paul said on Wednesday that he thought it was a “disservice to have a new 10-year penalty for people who have minor bruising” and that he’s been working with the sponsors of the bill to try to “exclude that part from the bill.”
Asked how the anti-lynching bill could be applied to altercations that result in “minor bruising” or what language he was hoping to get removed, Paul’s office referred to a statement from the GOP senator.
“The bill as written would allow altercations resulting in a cut, abrasion, bruise, or any other injury no matter how temporary to be subject to a 10-year penalty. My amendment would simply apply a serious bodily injury standard, which would ensure crimes resulting in substantial risk of death and extreme physical pain be prosecuted as a lynching,” he said in the statement.
Paul’s hold on the House-passed bill was first reported by National Journal. News of the roadblock comes as the country is in the middle of days of protests following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed during the course of his arrest by Minneapolis police. The death has sparked a renewed discussion about racial inequality and police violence.
If the Senate wanted to vote on the House-passed bill despite Paul’s objection, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could file cloture, a procedural tactic that would allow him to force a vote but eat up days of floor time.
The House could, alternatively, take up the Senate-passed legislation.