Sen. Cory Booker announced Monday he will take the lead in the Senate on a proposal that would establish a commission to study possible reparations, an idea that has emerged as a key policy question in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary and won broad support from the candidates.
Such a commission would seek to remedy generations-worth of discrimination as a result of “overt policies fueled by white supremacy and racism that have oppressed African-Americans economically for generations,” the New Jersey Democrat said in a statement, in addition to policies “that have ushered millions of Americans into the middle class” but “systematically excluded blacks.”
“This bill is a way of addressing head-on the persistence of racism, white supremacy and implicit racial bias in our country,” Booker added. “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.”
The bill, originally introduced by former Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and currently sponsored in the House by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, has emerged as a key issue for 2020 Democrats – and an area of consensus. At the National Action Network Conference in New York last week, Rev. Al Sharpton questioned one presidential hopeful after another on the measure and the candidates vouched their support.
Now, Booker seems poised to emerge as the legislative leader on the issue.
The New Jersey senator has previously vented frustration that the question of reparations has been “reduced to a box to check on a presidential list, when this is so much more of a serious conversation,” as he told CNN’s Don Lemon during a recent town hall in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
“Do I support legislation that is race-conscious about balancing the economic scales?” Booker said. “Not only do I support it, but I have legislation that actually does it.”
On the campaign trail, Booker has promoted a “baby bonds” proposal that would give each child a savings account, with money added annually based on a family’s wealth – touting a Columbia University study that concluded such a program would “dramatically reduce racial wealth inequality.”