Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called Friday for “examining and pursuing an agenda of reparations” as part of a lengthy list of proposals delivered before an Al Sharpton-sponsored conference in New York -- touting a controversial policy that's increasingly gained support from the 2020 field of Democratic presidential candidates.
Speaking about her cornerstone Green New Deal, which would entail a massive government-led overhaul of the economy and U.S. energy usage, the freshman Democrat also said the plan does not “shy away from bold conversations of health care, housing and education as human rights, of living wages and dignified work, of policy that isn’t just drafted with the next election in mind but also with the next generation in mind.”
She told the crowd at the National Action Network convention that such a generational attitude was the “underpinning” of a list of policies that include health care for all, free public college -- and reparations to black Americans for slavery.
“That is the moral political and economic underpinning of making bold investments and dignified jobs because that is the necessary plan to fix the pipes in Flint [Michigan] and clean the air in the South Bronx, and create unionized energy jobs for transitioning workers in Appalachia and West Virginia, for single-payer health care and Medicare-for-all and tuition-free public colleges and universities to prepare our nation for the future, and for the end of mass incarceration, the war on drugs, examining and pursuing an agenda of reparations and fixing the opioid crisis too,” she said.
2020 presidential candidates including Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro have all come out in favor of some form of reparations for black Americans.
The embrace of such a controversial proposal indicates a shift further to the left by the Democratic Party. Former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., previously came out against reparations.
Sanders, at the same event Ocasio-Cortez was attending, said Friday that if he were president and Congress passed a bill creating a commission to study the issue, he would sign it, according to The Hill. Both former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also said they would sign the bill.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, introducing the bill in January, said that “the impact of slavery and its vestiges continues to affect African Americans and indeed all Americans in communities throughout our nation.”
She explained that the measure -- formally known as the ‘Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act’ -- would examine the “institution of slavery in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present, and further recommend appropriate remedies.”
The bill currently has more than 30 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and, last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would support the legislation.
Those who have come out in favor of reparations have so far been vague about what exactly it is they would support. Harris suggested to The Grio that this could include a generic tax credit to families making under $100,000. Warren was prepared to go a step further, though, and told reporters in February that reparations for Native Americans should be “part of the conversation” as well.
Fox News' Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.