Reparations for slavery remains divisive issue for US, remarks by Booker, McConnell suggest

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Comments from two U.S. senators -- one a Democrat and the other a Republican -- appeared to illustrate Tuesday how far apart the two parties are on the proposal of reparations for the descendants of American slaves.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., one of three African-Americans in the U.S. Senate, is expected to argue Wednesday that the nation hasn’t fully come to grips with “the racism and white supremacy that tainted” the nation's founding, according to remarks prepared for his scheduled Wednesday appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.

“As a nation, we have yet to truly acknowledge and grapple with the racism and white supremacy that tainted this country’s founding and continues to cause persistent and deep racial disparities and inequality,” Booker’s remarks – which CBS News obtained – reportedly say. “These disparities don’t just harm black communities, they harm all communities.”

BETO O’ROURKE SAYS WHITE AMERICANS DON’T KNOW THE FULL STORY OF SLAVERY, CONTINUES TO SUPPORT REPARATIONS

"As a nation, we have yet to truly acknowledge and grapple with the racism and white supremacy that tainted this country’s founding."

— U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

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Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Celebration, Sunday, June 9, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Associated Press)

But during a news conference Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he was not in favor of reparations.

“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. “We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We elected an African-American president.”

“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.”

— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., addresses reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Associated Press)

McConnell continued: "I think we're always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that, and I don't think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it. First of all, it would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate. ... No, I don't think reparations are a good idea.”

At Wednesday's hearing, Booker, who has made the issue a focal point of his 2020 presidential campaign, will be joined by actor Danny Glover and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates – both of whom have been outspoken advocates for reparations.

Central to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties’ hearing will be a bill written by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, which proposes to create a commission for studying and recommending proposals for reparations.

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Booker introduced a Senate version of Jackson Lee’s reparations bill earlier this year. Similar to Jackson’s legislation, Booker’s proposal, which has 12 co-sponsors, would form a commission but makes no mention of payments. It is the only Senate legislation to address reparations in the post-Reconstruction era.

The divisive issue has gained traction in recent months as a crowded list of Democratic contenders outbid one another for the spotlight. Several candidates have thrown their support behind reparations, albeit, in varying degrees – a marked turnabout from past election cycles. Few, however, have gone into specifics about how such a proposal would be implemented.