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McConnell Rejects Possibility of Slavery Reparations

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after the weekly policy lunch in Washington, D.C., May 14, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he is opposed to the idea of authorizing reparations for the descendants of slaves brought to the U.S. against their will.

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea,” McConnell said, before going on to argue that the U.S. has taken other steps to atone for the “original sin of slavery.”

“We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, passing landmark civil-rights legislation,” he said. “We’ve elected an African American president. I think we are always a work in progress in this country, but no one alive currently was responsible for [slavery] and I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it.”

McConnell’s comments came ahead of a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Wednesday meant to discuss the possibility of appointing a commission to study the question and recommend what, if “any form of apology and compensation” should be offered to the descendants of slaves.

Former representative John Conyers had introduced a bill calling for the establishment of such a commission every year for three decades, to no avail. But amid renewed discussion among Democrats of the question of reparations, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee introduced the bill again this year.

“It is tragic, but it is real that we’ve seen an uptick in racial incidences — white supremacy, white nationalism,” Jackson Lee said this week. “And so the question of slavery, frankly, has never been addressed, particularly from the institutional governmental perspective.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled her support for a commission to study the possibility of reparations, calling it “one of the things that we can do not only just in terms of trying to make up for a horrible, sinful thing that happened in our country in terms of slavery, but for our country to live up to who we think we are.”

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