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Pelosi Signals Support for Commission to Study Slavery Reparations

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., January 10, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

House speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday threw her support behind a bill that would approve a commission to study the possibility of paying reparations to the descendants of American slaves.

“As you probably are aware, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has legislation to study this issue, and I support that,” the California Democrat told reporters. “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.”

Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, reintroduced the resolution last year. It currently has modest support in the House, with 35 cosponsors, and Pelosi’s support comes amid renewed public discussion of the idea. But the speaker said that there are other policies that could make a more immediate impact on African-American lives.

“We have to reduce the disparity in income in our country. We have to reduce the disparity in access to education in an affordable way in our country, reduce the health disparities in our country,” she said. “So while we’re studying how we deal with the reparations issue, there’s plenty we can do to improve the quality of life of many people in our country.”

Several of the top candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, including Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, said last week that they support some sort of reparations. The policy has historically not enjoyed majority support within the Democratic party, and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama previously declined to support it.

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