- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2020

Sen. Rand Paul clashed with Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker Thursday as he blocked their attempts to pass a bill that would designate lynching as a federal hate crime.

Mr. Paul, Kentucky Republican, became the face of derailing the bill after trying to add an amendment that would make the definition of lynching narrower. He argued it was a necessary change to ensure minor injuries couldn’t be charged a hate crime.

“I seek to amend this legislation not because I take lynching lightly, but because I take it seriously, and this legislation does not,” Mr. Paul said. “Our nation’s history of racial terrorism demands more seriousness from us than that.”

Mr. Booker and Ms. Harris, two of the three black senators in the entire Senate, strongly rejected his amendment and were incensed at the accusation their bill “cheapened” lynching.

“That we would not be taking the issue of lynching seriously is an insult, an insult to Sen. Booker, an insult to Sen. [Tim] Scott and myself,” Ms. Harris, California Democrat, said.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott also helped to craft the bill.

“I do not need my colleague, the senator from Kentucky, to tell me about one lynching in this country. I’ve stood in the museum in Montgomery, Alabama, and watched African-American families weeping at the stories of pregnant women lynched in this country and their babies ripped out of them while this body did nothing,” Mr. Booker added.

Both pointed out that any changes to the bill would delay it being signed into law, as it would need to be passed again by the House.

The New Jersey Democrat stressed the important symbolism of passing the anti-lynching legislation at this moment, as the country is roiled in protests and unrest after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have renewed the painful debate of racial tensions and police brutality in the U.S.

Mr. Paul stood by his decision, knowing that though the Senate could hold a full vote on the bill, Republicans don’t currently have a plan to do so.

“You think I’m getting any good publicity out of this? No. I will be excoriated by simple-minded people on the internet who think somehow I don’t like Emmett Till or appreciate the history of Emmett Till,” Mr. Paul said. “I’ll be lectured by everybody.”

The bill initially passed the House in February with overwhelming bipartisan support on a 410-4 vote.

Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush, the bill’s sponsor in the House, said Congress is missing its opportunity by failing to get it passed.

“We are witnessing a shameful moment in U.S. history. Black Americans are being lynched on camera before our very eyes & Congress has the extraordinary opportunity to finally outlaw this heinous act—after literally hundreds of years of failed attempts—but Rand Paul is blocking it,” he tweeted.

The Emmett Till Antilynching Act is named after the 14-year-old black male who was killed by a Mississippi lynch mob in 1955 after being accused of flirting with a white woman.

Since the early 1900s, Congress has attempted to pass anti-lynching legislation more than 200 times.

The anti-lynching legislation also has been snagged in the broader debate over the effectiveness of the hate crime designation, which opponents argue requires prosecutors to decipher the offenders’ motivation.

Though murder is treated as the most serious criminal offense throughout the U.S., supporters of hate crime legislation say enhanced penalties for offenses motivated by bias provide added protection for minorities and other vulnerable communities.

According to the NAACP, 3,446 black Americans were lynched from 1882 to 1968, accounting for more than 70% of all lynchings.

While lynching is not as prevalent a threat as it was in the past, supporters of the legislation argue that it sends a strong message denouncing racially motivated violence.

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