Paul clashes with Booker, Harris over anti-lynching bill

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) clashed with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calf.) on Thursday, deepening the stalemate on anti-lynching legislation. 

Paul tried twice to amend House-passed legislation that would make lynching a federal hate crime, saying that as currently written it would designate “any bodily injury including a cut, an abrasion, or a bruise, physical pain, illness or any other injury to the body” as lynching.

“I take it seriously and this legislation does not. … The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act should be adopted with my amendment which would apply the criminal penalties for lynching only and not other crimes,” Paul said.

But Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) blocked Paul’s effort, saying they viewed his amendment as an attempt to water down the bill in a way that would make it harder to prosecute lynchings under the the legislation.

“The idea that we would not be taking the issue of lynching seriously is an insult, an insult to Senator Booker, to Senator Tim Scott and myself,” Harris said.

“It is remarkable and it is painful to be standing here right now especially when people of all races are marching in the streets of America outraged by the hate and the violence and the murder that has been fueled by racism during the span of this country’s life,” Harris added.

Booker also rebuked Paul’s amendment, adding, “I object on substance. I object on the law, and for my heart and spirit and every fiber of my being, I object for my ancestors.”

Paul acknowledged this week that he had placed a hold on the anti-lynching legislation, which passed the House earlier this year. Unless he backs down, supporters will need to convince Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to agree to eat up days of floor time in order for it to get a vote.

Paul added on Thursday that he was trying to make sure there weren’t “unintended consequences.”

“You think I take great joy in being here? No. …You think I’m getting any good publicity out of this? No. …I have worked in an honest way with Senator Booker’s office for three months on this bill,” Paul said.

“There has to be justice. People are chanting justice. [But] justice has to have a brain and has to have vision and can’t be hamstrung into something that could give someone ten years in prison for a minor crime,” Paul added.

The floor fight comes after days of protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed while detained by Minneapolis police. Floyd’s death put the spotlight back on a national conversation about racial inequality and police violence.

Both Harris and Booker, two of the Senate’s three black senators, stressed that if Paul would drop his objection they could pass the legislation through the Senate on Thursday, sending it to Trump’s desk. That would allow for it to pass Congress, after months of delay, on the same day as Floyd’s memorial service.

“One man is standing in the way of the law of the land changing because of a difference of interpretation,” Booker said.

Tags anti-lynching legislation Cory Booker George Floyd George Floyd protests Lynching Mitch McConnell police brutality Rand Paul Tim Scott

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