House to vote on legislation making lynching a federal crime
Posted February 24, 2020 5:36 p.m. EST
CNN — Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are set to cast a historic vote this week to designate lynching as a federal crime.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced last week that the House on Wednesday will take up HR 35, anti-lynching legislation introduced in the House by Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois called the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. Fourteen-year-old Till was brutally murdered in a racist attack in Mississippi in 1955, becoming a civil rights rallying cry and a reminder of the atrocities African Americans have faced in the United States.
The measure, as it was originally introduced, specifies that any offense involving lynching constitutes a hate crime under federal law. It is expected to pass with at least a two-thirds majority, as it is being considered under a House process used for legislation with broad appeal.
The Senate has already passed its own anti-lynching legislation, and the House vote is expected to pave the way for the legislation to ultimately go to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature.
Last year, the Senate passed via unanimous consent the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, which made lynching a federal crime by establishing it as a civil rights violation. The legislation was sponsored by the Senate's three black members: Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.
One senior Democratic aide told CNN on Monday that the House bill will be amended before final passage in the House on Wednesday to carry the language of the Senate bill, but will keep the House's title in honor of Emmett Till. The aide said that discussions are ongoing about how the legislation will be sent to the President after the House vote.
The House bill as originally introduced outlines the violent history of lynching in the United States and catalogs the lengthy history of earlier attempts to pass anti-lynching legislation in Congress.
"In the 20th century, lynching occurred mostly in southern states by white southerners against black southerners," the bill states. "Mass, mob-like lynchings were barbaric by nature, characterized by members of the mob, mostly white southerners, shooting, burning and mutilating the victim's body alive."
"To heal past and present racial injustice, Congress must make lynching a federal crime so our nation can begin reconciliation," the legislation reads.
In a statement announcing the vote, Hoyer said that the legislation is "long overdue, but it is never too late to do the right thing and address these gruesome, racially motivated acts of terror that have plagued our nation's history."
When the House Judiciary Committee advanced the anti-lynching measure last year, Rush said in a statement, "Lynching has never been classified as a federal crime, despite many attempts by various presidents and legislators, but today we are one step closer."