Senate passes anti-lynching bill in renewed effort to make it a federal hate crime

February 21, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris

Two competitors for the 2020 Democratic nomination joined forces Thursday, February 14, 2019 in a renewed effort to pass their anti-lynching legislation.

The Senate passed the legislation from California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott last year, but the House never took up the measure. On Thursday, the Senate again passed the bill via unanimous consent.

If signed into law, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act would outline the specific killing of lynching, noting its violent and racist legacy, and add it to the federal list of hate crimes. As Booker’s office noted Thursday, the vote followed more than a century of efforts to outlaw lynching that have failed to pass.

Following the Thursday, February 14, 2019 unanimous vote in the Senate, the bill would then go to the House before President Donald Trump can sign it into law.

Thursday’s vote was also notable also due to the nascent political rivalry between the bill’s sponsors. Harris and Booker each recently announced they would seek their party’s nomination next year to challenge Trump for the White House, and they showed no ill will during Thursday’s vote, even wishing each other a “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Sen. Cory Booker

Asked about Booker being an opponent in the primary, Harris said the two were friends with “a great deal of affection and respect for each other.”

“We’ve worked together on many issues over a long time, over many years, frankly, even before I got to the Senate,” Harris said. “This is an historic day. We’re both very proud of the work that we’ve done together.”

Booker said they had been working on the bill “quite a bit,” and when asked if he felt dynamics had changed in the Senate with himself and other Democrats running against each other, Booker said his colleagues were “sisters and brothers.”

“There have always been sibling rivalries throughout history, but at the end of the day, there is still family,” Booker said.