Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) criticized Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday and his attempt to add an amendment to anti-lynching legislation.
The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act, named after a 14-year-old black teenager who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955, would make lynching a federal crime. The House passed it in February, but Paul wants to add an amendment that would "simply add a serious bodily injury standard," he said in a statement. On Wednesday, Paul told reporters he is afraid that "bruises could be considered lynching. That's a problem, to put someone in jail for 10 years for some kind of altercation."
Paul attempted to make changes to the measure on Thursday, at the same time a memorial service was being held in Minneapolis for George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died last week after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Paul said by defining the meaning of lynching so broadly, the bill would "cheapen" it, a remark Harris called "ridiculous" and an insult to black members of the Senate.
Paul's changes would "weaken" the bill, Harris said, and put a "greater burden on victims of lynching than is currently required under federal hate crime laws." There was no reason for Paul to propose the amendment, she added, beyond "cruel and deliberate obstruction on a day of mourning."
Booker said Paul was "standing in the way of the law of the land changing because of a difference of interpretation," and Paul pushed back, saying: "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 and the memory of Emmett Till." The amendment failed, and the measure is now in limbo. For it to pass quickly, the Senate would have to agree unanimously and not add any amendments. Catherine Garcia