The Senate’s only African-American lawmakers have rolled out new legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime.
On Friday, Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would make lynching — “the willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person” — punishable as a hate crime, The Hill reported.
Sen. Booker called it “a travesty” that Congress hadn’t passed anti-lynching legislation.
Harris agreed, saying in a statement Friday, “Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our history, and we must acknowledge that, lest we repeat it.”
So far, the bill has gained the support of 18 other Democratic senators and Independent Sens. Angus King (Maine) Bernie Sanders (Vt.), according to the news site. Scott, the Senate’s sole African-American GOP senator, is the only Republican who’s thrown his support behind the legislation.
“This measure is certainly well past due, and I am glad to be able to join in efforts that will underscore the severity of this crime,” Scott said in a statement. “This piece of legislation sends a message that together, as a nation, we condemn the actions of those that try to divide us with violence and hate.”
In order for the bill to pass the Senate, Booker, Harris and Scott must get the support of 60 Senators, or a strike a deal to pass the legislation by voice vote. According to Harris’ office, Congress has been unsuccessful at passing such a law, trying almost 200 times since 1910.
When asked if he would support an anti-lynching law, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed shock that there wasn’t already one on the books.
“Gosh, I thought we did that many years ago … Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it,” he said. “I thought that was done back during LBJ or some period like that. But if we need one at the federal level, I certainly would support it.”
Though the Senate passed a resolution in 2005 apologizing to the thousands of lynching victims, Friday’s legislation argued that a bill outlawing was still necessary.
“Notwithstanding the Senate’s apology and the heightened awareness and education about the Nation’s legacy with lynching, it is wholly necessary and appropriate for the Congress to enact legislation, after 100 years of unsuccessful legislative efforts, finally to make lynching a Federal hate crime,” the bill states.