- Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday said he would sign a bill to research reparations for descendants of slavery.
- The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, would set up a commission to study reparations.
- “If the House and Senate pass that bill of course I would sign it…There needs to be a study,” Sanders said at the National Action Network conference in New York City.
NEW YORK CITY, NY – Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday told Rev. Al Sharpton he would sign a bill to research reparations for descendants of slaves if elected president, somewhat reversing course on an issue that’s emerged as one of the central topics of discussion along the 2020 campaign trail.
Sharpton asked the Vermont senator if he would sign Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s bill that calls for setting up a commission to study the issue of reparations. Signing the bill into law would not automatically grant payments to descendants of slaves, which is something Sanders has expressed opposition to during interviews in recent weeks.
“If the House and Senate pass that bill of course I would sign it…There needs to be a study,” Sanders told Sharpton at the National Action Network conference in midtown Manhattan on Friday.
Sanders added, “But let me also say this, that I think what we need to do…is to pay real attention to the most distressed communities in America. We’ve got to use 10% of all federal funds to make sure that kids who need it get the education, get the jobs, get environmental protection, that they need.”
The senator said this would be a “major focus” if he was elected.
— John Haltiwanger (@jchaltiwanger) April 5, 2019
Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who are competing against Sanders for the 2020 Democratic nomination, also pledged to sign Lee’s bill when asked by Sharpton on Friday.
In an appearance on “The View” last month, Sanders expressed skepticism over the discussions on reparations in the context of the 2020 race. He questioned what reparations for descendants of slaves would look like from a policy standpoint.
“I think that right now our job is to address the crises facing the American people in our communities,” Sanders said at the time. “And I think there are better ways to do that than just writing out a check.”
A recent INSIDER poll found a majority of voters who identify as liberal, 54%, support reparations for descendants of slaves.
During his speech at the conference on Friday, Sanders focused heavily on criminal justice reform and once again referred to President Donald Trump as a “racist.”
“It gives me no pleasure to tell you that we have a president today who is a racist. Who is a sexist. Who is a homophobe. Who is a xenophobe. And who is a religious bigot. I wish I did not have to say that, but that is the damn truth,” Sanders said.
Trump has repeatedly denied accusations of racism levied against him.