House Democrats will breathe new life into the debate over slavery reparations with a historic hearing on Capitol Hill.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties are planning to bring in big names like actor Danny Glover and author Ta-Nehisi Coates to create a media buzz around an issue that has languished in Congress for generations.
The hearing comes on the heels a bill from Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) that would form a national commission to study whether descendants of slaves should receive reparations.
While the bill has been backed by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as well as the Democrats’ liberal base, it’s unclear where the legislation will go in the future.
Reparations have been a controversial issue for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates vying for African American voters. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), one White House hopeful, has authored a companion bill in the upper chamber to study reparations.
Booker will testify at Wednesday’s hearing, joining Glover and Coates, whose 2014 article “The Case for Reparations” reignited a national dialogue about the issue.
The reparations bill would be a tough vote for swing-district and swing-state Democrats.
“I would be astonished if Nancy Pelosi brought that to the floor,” one House Democrat said on Tuesday. “She is very sensitive to ‘the will of the people,’ and I doubt reparations enjoys much public support.”
One Democratic chief of staff said: “I don’t think it will move.”
The hearing will examine “the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice.”
The five other senators running for the Democratic nomination — Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — have all signed on as co-sponsors.