Emotional debate erupts over anti-lynching legislation when Cory Booker and Kamala Harris speak out against the Rand Paul amendment

Paul holds up anti-lynching bill. See Harris and Booker's response.
When the George Floyd memorial service began in Minnesota, Paul, who has been delaying popular bipartisan legislation to make lynching a federal crime, came to the Senate in Washington to add an amendment to the anti-lynching legislation and then pass it. He argued that the bill as written is too broad and said his amendment “would apply criminal penalties only for lynching and not for other crimes.” The Republican senator asked for unanimous consent to pass the bill with that amendment. However, both Harris and Booker spoke out against the effort, and Booker formally opposed it.

“Senator Paul is now trying to weaken a bill that has already been passed: there is no reason for this, there is no reason for this,” Harris said.

In emotional comments, Booker said he felt “so raw today,” saying, “Of all the days that we’re doing this right now when God, if this bill was passed today, what that would mean for the United States. That this body and that body finally agree. ”

“It would talk a lot about racial pain and the pain of generations,” Booker said. Raising her voice, she continued, “I don’t need my colleague, the senator from Kentucky, to tell me about lynching in this country. I was at the museum in Montgomery, Alabama, and I saw African American families cry. The stories of women pregnant lynched in this country and their babies ripped out while this body did nothing. ”

Pointing to Paul, Booker said he did not question Paul’s heart, but that he totally disagreed with his actions.

“My colleague, Rand Paul, is one of the first hands that I shook” in the Senate, Booker said. “He is my friend … but I am so raw today.”

America's lynching legacy is not the whole story. Many say it is still happening today

“I seek to amend this legislation not because I take lynching lightly, but because I take it seriously, and this legislation does not,” Paul said, arguing that “this bill would make the meaning of lynching cheaper by defining it so broadly as to include a little bruise or abrasion. Our nation’s history of racial terrorism demands more seriousness than that. ”

Soon after, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska came to the floor for a speech she had been planning for weeks to give about women’s suffrage. He took a moment before his speech to speak about the debate he had just seen and to say a few words about the state of the country.

“I just want you to know that I am grateful to have been here on the floor to listen personally. We can read words, but it is when we have the ability to hear and feel those words that their true meaning comes to light,” Murkowski told Booker and Harris.

Murkowski said she wanted to speak today because she feels she has been too quiet.

“Some have challenged me. Some have punished me … from some very close friends who say ‘you’re silent, Lisa. Why haven’t you fixed what we’re seeing?’ I have struggled with the right words. As a white woman born and raised in Alaska with a privileged family, I cannot feel that openness and rawness I just heard expressed by my friends Cory and Kamala. I have not lived her life. I can listen, and I can educate myself, and I can try to heal myself when we need to be healed. “

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