Rand Paul, one of the senators from Kentucky, acknowledged on Thursday that he’s currently the only person standing in the way of passing a bill that would make lynching a federal crime, CBS News reported. Paul told reporters that he wants Congress to have more discussion on the bill to make the language more precise. He made it clear that he supports the intent behind the bill, but that he believes the bill isn’t as strong as it should be yet.
Per CBS News, Paul said the current language in the bill isn’t precise enough about what constitutes a lynching. He argued that minor altercations could fall under the current version of the lynching bill, which he called “a disservice to those who were lynched in our history.”
According to CNN, Paul’s office released a statement on Wednesday, saying that he wants the language in the bill to specify that only crimes that resulted in serious bodily harm or put the victim at risk of death would be able to be prosecuted as lynchings.
“The bill as written would allow altercations resulting in a cut, abrasion, bruise, or any other injury no matter how temporary to be subject to a 10-year penalty. My amendment would simply apply a serious bodily injury standard, which would ensure crimes resulting in substantial risk of death and extreme physical pain be prosecuted as a lynching.”
Paul told CBS News that he would be introducing the amendment to the proposed bill on Thursday.
With news out today that Sen. Rand Paul is single-handedly holding up the federal anti-lynching bill, I'll repost this thread about the century-long struggle behind it. https://t.co/o79qRGgVSi
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) June 3, 2020
The current version of the bill overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives in February, according to CNN. The Senate was hoping to unanimously pass the bill, but Paul has refused to pass it in its current form.
The bill passed by the House is very similar to a bill that was previously passed by the Senate in a unanimous vote, according to CNN. The bill currently being considered in the Senate was written by the only three African-American members of the Senate: Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Paul first spoke out about his opposition to the anti-lynching bill as written after The National Journal reported on Tuesday that he was the only holdout. According to CBS News, Sen. Booker had previously said that the bill was being held up by a single senator, but he did not identify the person.
Paul’s opposition to the bill comes as Congress is under immense pressure to pass legislation making the punishment for racially motivated crimes more severe. In the past century, 200 failed anti-lynching bills have been considered by Congress, CBS News reported.