Senator Cory Booker Announces He'll Offer Bill To Study Potential Reparations

The measure would create a commission to review proposals on the matter.

Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced Monday he plans to introduce a bill to set up a federal examination of the effect of slavery and ongoing racial discrimination on black communities, an effort that would include generating recommendations on reparations for slave descendants.

The proposal, a companion to a measure offered in the House by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-Texas) earlier this year, would create a commission to undertake the matter.

“Since slavery in this country, we have had overt policies fueled by white supremacy and racism that have oppressed African-Americans economically for generations,” Booker said in a statement, pointing to housing discrimination through so-called redlining real estate practices as one prime example. 

“This bill is a way of addressing head-on the persistence of racism, white supremacy, and implicit racial bias in our country,” he said. “It will bring together the best minds to study the issue and propose solutions that will finally begin to right the economic scales of past harms and make sure we are a country where all dignity and humanity is affirmed.”

Jackson Lee praised Booker’s move.

“I salute his dedication to elevating the discussion of reparations and reparatory justice, and look forward to the dialogue that this issue engenders on and off Capitol Hill,” she said in a statement.

Reparations have become a point of debate within the large field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

Asked by Rev. Al Sharpton at last week’s National Action Network convention whether he’d support Jackson Lee’s bill, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke said he “absolutely” would “sign that into law.

At the same event, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gave his endorsement for the study proposal, though he has previously stopped short of backing reparations, including during his 2016 presidential bid

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are among the Democratic White House contenders who have endorsed Jackson’s bill.

In March, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts backed Jackson Lee’s bill in a tweet, saying it was time “to start a national, full-blown conversation about reparations.”

In a February interview, Sen. Kamala Harris of California agreed that reparations were needed to address America’s history of injustice toward blacks, subsequently calling for “an approach that would change policies and structures and make real investments in black communities” in a statement to The New York Times.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, at the moment a long shot among the Democratic presidential contenders, has expressed a willingness to consider reparations.