U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) is pressing forward with his platform demanding the federal government use taxpayer money to give reparations to African-Americans because of slavery, which ended more than 150 years ago.
Cohen this week chaired a hearing on H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.
Cohen said he chose Wednesday, June 19, to hold the hearing because it is Emancipation Day — or the date in history that Union troops freed the last enslaved Americans.
“H.R. 40 isn’t about advancing any one agenda on if and how reparations should be provided; it’s about suspending our personal policy preferences and making way for a commission that can seriously consider the issue and draft appropriate proposals,” Cohen said in an article on CNN.com
According to The Associated Press, witnesses at the hearing included actor and activist Danny Glover, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Democratic presidential candidate.
Booker, who testified first, said the U.S has “yet to truly acknowledge and grapple with the racism and white supremacy that tainted this country’s founding and continues to cause persistent and deep racial disparities and inequality.”
Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the top Republican on the panel, said he respects the beliefs of those who support reparations. He called America’s history with slavery “regrettable and shameful.”
But he said paying monetary reparations for the “sins of a small subset of Americans from many generations ago” would be unfair, difficult to carry out in practice and, in his view, likely unconstitutional.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he opposes reparations, telling reporters: “I don’t want reparations for something that happened 150 years ago. We’ve tried to deal with the original sin of slavery by passing civil rights legislation” and electing an African American president, Barack Obama.
As The Tennessee Star reported in February, Cohen is working with U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, on the matter of slavery reparations.
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