What is US Anti-Lynching Bill? Why is Senator Rand Paul Blocking its Passage?

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching bill in February, with a majority of 410-4.

As George Floyd's memorial service was underway in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the U.S. senate witnessed an emotional altercation over the passage of a bipartisan anti-lynching bill. The bill, if passed, would make lynching a federal crime.

The altercation took place over the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching bill, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in February, with a majority of 410-4. On Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) locked horns with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who along with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) wrote similar legislation which was passed in the senate in 2018.

Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky Screen Grab/YouTube

On Thursday, Paul demanded amendments to the bill, not because he took lynching lightly but because he took it seriously and the "legislation does not". According to him, the bill in its present form "would cheapen the meaning of lynching by defining it so broadly as to include a minor bruise or abrasion". He then recounted a number of gruesome lynchings in the U.S., including that of Emmett Till, on whose name the legislation has been named after.

He presented an amendment to the bill that would allow criminal penalties for lynching only and not other crimes. He called for the bill to be passed with this amendment.

His proposal was blocked by Harris and Booker. Harris accused Paul of weakening the bill, CNN reported. The fact that the issue of lynching would not be taken seriously was an insult to Sen. Booker, Sen. Scott and herself, the only three black senators, she added.

In an emotional exchange, Booker said if the bill was passed, it would mean "this body and that body have finally agreed". It would speak volumes about the racial pains experienced through generations. He recounted going to the museum in Montgomery, Alabama and watching African-American families weeping at the stories of pregnant women lynched and their babies ripped out of them, "while this body did nothing". He added that he did not question Paul's heart but disagreed with his actions.

Since Paul's amendments were not approved, the bill will sit in the Senate until he concedes or the amendment is approved. Though the impasse could be ended through a roll call vote, Republican senators have no plans to devote floor time to the bill, Politico reported. The disagreement came at a time when the country is roiled in protests over widespread racism prevalent in the country.