By Ali Zaslav and Clare Foran, CNN
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who held up popular bipartisan anti-lynching legislation in the Senate last Congress, announced Tuesday that he now supports and has signed on as a co-sponsor of a new version of the bill.
The updated version of the legislation — known as the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022 — was introduced in the Senate this week by Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. The Senate bill is identical to companion legislation introduced by Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois that the House passed on Monday.
Since the House has already passed the measure, once the Senate takes up and passes the bill, it will be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. Paul’s support for the new version of the bill will likely pave the way for its passage in the Senate. Senate Democratic leadership hopes to pass the legislation soon by unanimous consent, but the timing is still uncertain.
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022 would designate lynching as a federal hate crime under existing statues and is co-sponsored by Paul and the Senate’s three Black senators Booker; Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina; and Raphael Warnock, Democrat of Georgia.
The legislation is named in honor of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered in a racist attack in Mississippi in 1955, an event that drew national attention to the atrocities and violence that African Americans faced in the United States and became a civil rights rallying cry.
Paul previously held up an earlier version of the bill, arguing in 2020 that he wanted it “to be stronger.”
In a statement on Tuesday in which he urged swift passage of the updated legislation, Paul said, “Strengthening the language of this bill has been my goal all along, and I’m pleased to have worked with Senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott to get this right and ensure the language of this bill defines lynching as the absolutely heinous crime that it is.”
At the time Paul originally held up the anti-lynching bill in 2020, Senate supporters had hoped to pass the measure by unanimous consent in a show of widespread support. It only takes the objection of one senator out of 100, however, to stall a bill if it is brought up via unanimous consent.
Paul explained his position on the bill at the time by saying, in part, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to conflate someone who has an altercation, where they had minor bruises, with lynching. We think that’s a disservice to those who were lynched in our history, who continue to have, we continue to have these problems. And I think it’s a disservice to have a new 10-year penalty for people who have minor bruising. We’ve tried to exclude that part from the bill, and we’ve been working with the authors to try to make the bill better.”
Passage of the bill is a long-sought goal of advocates, who have been working for years to secure its approval in Congress.
Booker said in a statement on Tuesday, “The effort to pass anti-lynching legislation has spanned more than a century. After 200 failed attempts, Congress is now finally prepared to reckon with America’s history of racialized violence.”
“I am proud to announce Senators Paul and Warnock as cosponsors of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. Their support underscores the bipartisan backing that we have to finally meet this moment and help our nation move forward from some of its darkest chapters,” he said.
Rush said in a statement following House passage of the bill earlier this week, “The failure of Congress to codify federal antilynching legislation — despite more than 200 attempts since 1900 — meant that 99 percent of lynching perpetrators walked free. Today, we take a meaningful step toward correcting this historical injustice.”
“I am immensely proud of this legislation, which will ensure that the full force of the U.S. federal government will always be brought to bear against those who commit monstrous acts of hatred,” Rush said.
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