Stating he believed it should be “universally condemned,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked a bill Thursday that would outlaw lynchings in America, according to ABC News. Paul’s move stems from his fear that minor offenses, like bruising, could be considered lynching. His decision has since been condemned by two of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).
What We Know:
- In February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its anti-lynching bill with overwhelming bipartisan support in a vote of 410-4. The bill was named in honor of Emmett Till, a black teenager lynched in Mississippi in 1955.
- If passed, anyone who “willfully injures” or “intimidates” while committing certain civil rights violations with a group and deemed a lynching – even if these offenses are not life-threatening – could be subject to up to 10 years in prison.
- In order for quick Senate passage, senators would need to unanimously agree without additional amendments. Any added amendments would require a full Senate vote and send the bill back to the House for more consideration. With the House currently out of session, this would be a significant setback.
- Senator Paul’s concern that violations such as a cut, bruise, or minor injury could receive a 10-year sentence prompted his attempt to change the legislation. “My amendment would simply apply a serious bodily injury standard, which would ensure crimes resulting in substantial risk of death and extreme physical pain be prosecuted as a lynching,” Paul stated.
- Sen. Paul tried to implement his changes Thursday on the Senate floor but they were blocked by Senator’s Harris and Booker. “One man, one man is standing in the way of the law of the land changing because of a difference of interpretation,” Booker explained.
- Paul’s amendment did not pass, and the bill currently sits in limbo.
Rand Paul’s Senate blockade comes just over a week after the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man killed by a white police officer after kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes. Bill sponsor and former presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris stated, “It should not require a maiming or torture in order for us to recognize a lynching when we see it and recognize it by federal law and call it what it is.”