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New Jersey senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker is set to introduce a senate bill that would look into slavery reparations

On Monday, Booker said he plans to file a bill in the Senate that would form a commission to explore reparations proposals for African-American descendants of slavery, according to a statement. The bill is a companion version of a House bill introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. The bill was first introduced in 1989 by Rep. John Conyers.

“Since slavery in this country, we have had overt policies fueled by white supremacy and racism that have oppressed African-Americans economically for generations,” Booker said, in a statement. “Many of our bedrock domestic policies that have ushered millions of Americans into the middle class have systematically excluded blacks through practices like GI Bill discrimination and redlining. 

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Reporter Nick Pugliese talks about Cory Booker’s shot at the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential race.
Nicholas Pugliese and Michael V. Pettigano and Paul Wood Jr., North Jersey Record

Among Booker’s Democratic competitors in a crowded field of potential nominees, several candidates, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, have been asked where they stand on the issue of reparations and have responded with varying levels of candor.

In several interviews, Sanders has dodged the question of whether he would support reparations, refocusing the question on racial disparities.

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“I’m not dodging the question, the question is what do we mean by reparations? It seems to me a lot of people mean a lot of different things,” said Sanders, in an interview on The Breakfast Club, a hip-hop morning radio show.

After an initial gaffe and a direct question from Rev. Al Sharpton, O’Rourke said he would sign Jackson Lee’s bill.

Other candidates like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Julián Castro voiced their support for reparations, but offered few other details.

Reparations as an issue and Jackon Lee’s bill itself have become contentious issues for candidates that are courting black voters in the primary race.

Booker took a sharper, more firm stance on the issue, tweeting that acknowledging the country’s past was not enough.

“I’ve been unapologetic in my belief that this can’t just be about acknowledging the past. It needs to be about actually confronting racist policy that persists right now in the present. Because if we don’t, we cannot guarantee that our future will be any different than our past,” Booker tweeted.

Booker’s backing of the reparations bill comes days after he announced that his campaign raised $5 million in the two months since entering the 2020 primary, along with having $6.1 million in cash on hand. 

Booker’s campaign figures trail those of his major Democratic competitors, with O’Rourke raising $6.1 million during his first 24 hours of campaigning and Sanders raising $5.9 million over the same amount of time.

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Much of Booker’s campaign has hinged on social justice issues, including legalizing marijuana and expunging criminal records for marijuana-related crimes. In February, Booker co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act, which would end the federal prohibition on marijuana.

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“The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” said Booker, in a statement. “The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”

Ahead of New Jersey lawmakers’ scheduled vote on a marijuana legalization bill, which was ultimately canceled, Booker threw his support behind the bill, pressing for its passage. 

“I hope this bill passes & NJ can lead the nation on this. Marijuana legalization & social justice *must* go hand in hand. We can’t have one without the other,” tweeted Booker.

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