House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn: 'How You Deal With Reparations Is the Key'

June 20, 2019

By Justin Chermol

Even with control of the House, life on the Hill for Democrats can be frustrating, especially given the Republican-controlled Senate, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has referred to as "McConnell's Graveyard." But House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn remains undeterred.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee heard from witnesses on a potential reparations bill, which would study how the U.S. might implement payments to black Americans who have long suffered from the legacy of slavery and discriminatory policies like segregation. The hearing coincided with the June 19 holiday known as "Juneteenth," which marks the day slavery was abolished in Texas.

"How you deal with reparations is the key," Clyburn told Cheddar on Thursday. "Reparations to me, happens to be a word, that comes from the root word, 'repair.' And if you looked up the word 'reparations' it has to do with simply making amends."

"So the question then becomes: why are we having this hearing? Why aren't we trying to determine what can be done if the bill passes? What can we do in the meantime?" he added.

Although more than 60 Democrats in the House are sponsoring the reparations bill, it is virtually certain to fail in McConnell's GOP-controlled Senate. McConnell told reporters Tuesday he will not support a reparations bill "for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible.”

While the specifics of the bill remain unclear, Clyburn said the legislation is important to advance the discussion and ideas for righting a dark stain on U.S. history. He cautioned, however, about a purely financial solution to a deeply complex and controversial debate.

"The biggest mistake that I think we can make is to allow reparations to be reduced to a monetary solution, rather than a making-amends solution," he said.

Clyburn would rather target impoverished African American communities that still face systemic discrimination, and "make amends" with them, rather than just offer some sort of broad-based fiscal reward.

But reparations is not the only issues Clyburn wants to tackle in the 116th Congress.

When it comes to education, Clyburn is a co-sponsor of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) headline-grabbing 2020 platform: to extinguish the majority of student loan debt in the U.S.

"One of the things that bugs me a whole lot when it comes to education is that we see these low-achieving schools," Clyburn said. "I have never seen a low-achieving school in a high-income community. Never have I seen it. So low-achieving schools are synonymous with low-income communities."

The proposal would crush a piece of the $1.5 trillion nearly 45 million Americans owe in student loan debt by providing relief to 95 percent of students.

Tune in tomorrow at 11 a.m. on Cheddar Movers for more on Clyburn's agenda in the 116th Congress.