The Emmett Till Antilynching Act passed the Democratic House 410-4 on February 26. It was identical to a bill that the Senate had passed already by unanimous consent in December of 2018 and February 2019, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act. Except for the title. When the Senate tried to pass it this year, with unanimous consent, Sen. Rand Paul objected.
His argument is that he wants to “make it stronger.” The last two time it passed in the Senate, when the House was in Republican control and hadn’t taken up the bill, Paul had no issues with the wording of it. No, it wasn’t until it could actually pass both chambers of Congress and become law that he objected. Now, if it’s going to pass, it has to compete for time on the floor with Mitch McConnell’s slew of judicial confirmation. But McConnell isn’t going to do that, any more than he’s going to pass any House bill. Even one that would make lynching a human being a federal crime, covered as a criminal civil rights violation.
The bill says that “whoever conspires with another person to violate section 245, 247, or 249 of this title or section 901 of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3631) shall be punished in the same manner as a completed violation of such section, except that if the maximum term of imprisonment for such completed violation is less than 10 years, the person may be imprisoned for not more than 10 years.” Paul says that the “bill as written would allow altercations resulting in a cut, abrasion, bruise, or any other injury no matter how temporary to be subject to a 10-year penalty,” and that he wants “a serious bodily injury standard.” Which is a big old red herring and absolutely unnecessary. No federal civil rights charges are going to be brought against a defendant for bruising someone.
Rep. Bobby Rush, who wrote the legislation with Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, tweeted that the “language of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act is IDENTICAL to the bill that was unanimously approved by the Senate.” Twice, in fact. “The only conclusion I can draw from [Paul’s] sudden opposition is he has an issue with the House bill being named after Emmett Till.” The other conclusion one could draw is that this time it counts, this time it could actually become law.
Paul’s fellow Kentuckian, McConnell, could also just bring the damn bill to the floor for a roll call vote. It wouldn’t take that much time, and it would pass with a large bipartisan vote. Because even most Republicans who aren’t Rand Paul would find it ridiculous to oppose an anti-lynching bill. But right now McConnell and the rest of the them are hiding behind Paul. They’re letting his punchable face be the one of white supremacy, protecting them from having to take this vote that could anger their racist base.