Senate Approves Bill That Would Outlaw Lynching as a Federal Hate Crime

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) listen as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States on Capitol Hill Sept. 27, 2018, in Washington, D.C. The two and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott proposed a bill to outlaw lynching that passed in the Senate on Dec. 19, 2018. (Credit: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) listen as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States on Capitol Hill Sept. 27, 2018, in Washington, D.C. The two and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott proposed a bill to outlaw lynching that passed in the Senate on Dec. 19, 2018. (Credit: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

The Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that would make lynching a federal crime after more than a century of such attempts to outlaw the act.

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, which passed unanimously, was introduced earlier this year by the chamber’s three African-American senators: California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott.

The proposal outlines the specific act of lynching — a mob killing without legal authority — and would add lynching to the federal list of hate crimes.

Harris touted the vote on Twitter, calling the moment “history.”

The bill describes lynching as “the ultimate expression of racism in the United States” following Reconstruction and counts 4,742 overwhelmingly African-American victims reported from 1882 to 1968. It notes further that some 200 anti-lynching bills had been brought before Congress and 99% “of all perpetrators of lynching escaped from punishment by state or local officials.”

“Today, we have righted that wrong and taken corrective action that recognizes this stain on our country’s history,” Booker said in a statement following the vote.

Mississippi GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith presided over the session, a position some noted with irony due to a comment she made about attending a “public hanging” that led to widespread anger during her election bid this fall.

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