House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will step down from her leadership role at the end of the year to make way for her endorsed successor, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), as the likely next House Democratic Leader.
The ascent of Jeffries to the top leadership role will likely also elevate his support for legislation to create a special commission to study the prospect of federal reparations for slavery, according to Fox News.
Proposed commission to study slavery reparations
First introduced in 2019 and then refiled in 2021, Rep. Jeffries was among the nearly 200 original co-sponsor of H.R.40, titled “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.”
The Act is intended “To address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.”
If passed, it would create a 13-member commission empowered to hold hearings and issue subpoenas as part of its purpose to draft a comprehensive report for Congress within a year on the feasibility of providing undetermined forms of reparations to the American descendants of enslaved Africans.
Jeffries supports reparations for slavery
Just the News reported that Jeffries has long been a proponent of reparations to address the history of slavery and “systemic” or “structural racism” in the U.S.
In February 2020, during a discussion hosted by the Brookings Institution, Jeffries suggested that the U.S. should emulate what South Africa did in 2003 to address its own sordid history of apartheid, which included a formal apology and the provision of $4,600 in restitution to individuals victimized by apartheid.
It was during an April 2021 House Judiciary Committee hearing on H.R.40 that Jeffries delivered a five-minute diatribe of historic racial grievances and repeatedly insisted to anyone opposed to the idea of reparations that black Americans like himself were “not simply going to move on” from the topic.
“America is a great country, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go, and systemic racism has been in the soil of this land since 1619,” he said at the time to open his speech, and proceeded to describe the institution of slavery as a “birth defect” that marred America’s otherwise “high ideals.”
Jeffries decried the slave trade, the Reconstruction Era, Jim Crow laws, segregation, the KKK and lynchings, and a host of other instances in which black Americans were treated as inferior to their fellow white citizens. He ultimately concluded, “The least we can do is study these historic wrongs. That’s the least that this Congress can do.
Bill not going anywhere anytime soon
Just the News noted that H.R.40 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee during that April 2021 hearing but has since been stalled in the House and has not been brought up for a full vote.
And now, with a Republican majority set to control the House for the next two years, it seems highly unlikely that the reparations study bill will see any additional movement, though it is not out of the realm of possibility for Jeffries to try and advance it anyway, perhaps as part of a compromise deal involving an unrelated top priority for the GOP.