On Jan. 24 Sen. Cory Booker announced he was introducing his reparations bill, S.40.
S.40 is the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.
On Twitter, Booker wrote, “If we want to address the institutional bias & racism that has impeded generations of African Americans, we must first fully document the harms of slavery & its dark history. I’m proud to again introduce bicameral legislation that’d do just that.”
But reparations advocate and Duke University professor Dr. William “Sandy” Darity, Jr. said a wait minute–your proposed legislation isn’t much different that the longtime stalled reparations bill, HR40.
Darity tweeted, “Unfortunately, this merely duplicates HR40 with all of its flaws.”
Booker first introduced the S.40 bill in 2019 during his run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The S.40 bill is the Senate companion to HR40.
HR40, which calls for the establishment of a federal reparations commission, has been introduced in the House since 1989, when Rep. John Conyers introduced the measure. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee took over as the primary sponsor of HR40 after Conyers retired. After much hype, the legislation stalled.
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Jackson Lee has praised Booker for S.40 bill.
“I am pleased to thank Senator Cory Booker for introducing the Senate version of the Commission to Study Slavery and Develop Reparations Proposals Act. His introduction of this bill in the Senate is pivotal to the success of this legislation in the 118th Congress,” she wrote in a statement.
She added, “I believe that the Commission to Study Slavery and Develop Reparation Proposals Act is a crucial piece of legislation that will complement the House version, HR 40. This legislation, both the House and Senate version, goes beyond exploring the economic implications of slavery and segregation but is a holistic approach to reconciling that period of American history.”
Many have called for Jackson Lee to make drastic changes to HR40.
Dariy and a slew of others, including members of the American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) and hip-hop mogul Ice Cube, have urged her to make changes. She has never responded.
Darity, considered one of the premier reparations experts, contacted the congresswoman’s office recently to set up a meeting and received no answer.
Initially, Darity was for the passage of the bill, but that changed. He said he feels strongly that HR40 needs to either be replaced in “its entirety or to leapfrog it and move directly to the design of legislation for reparations.”
Here is why the current bill doesn’t work, Darity wrote.
“…naïve in the belief that the hearings truly would explore ways to improve the HR40 bill, I was supportive of the passage of the bill, subject to revision. The sustained resistance to any critical assessment of the content of HR40 on the part of National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA) and their allies, particularly National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) and the Institute of the Black World, is leading me to reconsider my position,” Darity wrote in Actify.
A central problem with the bill, Darity said, involves the commission that it proposes. That commission would consist of “seven members, three appointed by the U.S. president, three appointed by the Speaker of the House, and one appointed by the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate.”
Darity said he and Kirsten Mullen (his writing partner and wife), “found odd the assignment of appointment authority for any positions to the President since this is a Congressional commission. Ultimately, one of the recommendations put forward in my Juneteenth testimony is to have all members appointed by the Congress, while restoring the original number of seven members. Any President can at any time, appoint their own commission to study plans for Black reparations if they so desire,” Darity wrote in Actify.
Darity also wants a faster timeline than HR40 proposes. “Another recommended edit is to specify that the Commission shall complete its work in 18 months. HR 40 specifies that the Commission submit a report to Congress within one year of its empaneling. It does not specify that this must be a final or complete report. It is possible, under the terms of the current legislation, for the Commission to come to Congress in a year with a report requesting an extension. This could go on indefinitely. Instead, give the Commission 18 months to provide Congress with a final report,” he wrote.
Booker’s legislation is cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Patty Murray (D-WA).
(L) U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., attends the PEN America Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History, May 23, 2022, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)/(R) Prof. William Darity, Duke University, https://sanford.duke.edu/profile/william-darity/