78ºF

This Texas lawmaker is one of four House members to vote against anti-lynching bill

photo

TEXAS – U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, was among four U.S. House members on Wednesday who voted against a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime.

The measure — dubbed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act — drew broad bipartisan support, passing in an overwhelming 401-4 vote. A separate version of the measure passed the U.S. Senate last year with broad support; the Senate will need to approve the House-passed version before it can go to the White House where President Donald Trump is expected to sign it.

Gohmert, widely known around the Capitol as the most rabble-rousing Texan serving in Congress, told The Houston Chronicle he has “trouble with the federal nexus of lynching” and said the bill “sends entirely the wrong message about how serious this is,” since it only allowed for a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

“Under Texas law, the defendants could have gotten the death penalty,” he said. “I regret needing to vote no, but I just felt like this is too serious to be handled at such a low level.”

Hank Gilbert, the Democrat challenging Gohmert this year, condemned the vote.

“When I saw this vote come across, I could not believe it,” Gilbert said in a statement. “I had to look at the calendar and see if it was 2020 or 1920 when I saw that vote. It is unconscionable that a sitting congressman would not vote to make lynching a federal crime.”

Congress has tried for more than 100 years to pass a measure that would make lynching a federal hate crime. The measure is named after Emmett Till, who was brutally beaten and lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after he allegedly whistled at a white woman. He was 14 years old at the time.

The House bill was co-sponsored by six Texas Democrats: U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela of Brownsville, Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Al Green of Houston, Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.

“I was honored to cast a ‘yes’ vote for the long overdue #EmmettTill Antilynching Act,” Vela tweeted. “It has been over 100 years since this legislation was first introduced and that is over 100 years too long. I am proud to be a part of passing a bill that corrects this grave injustice.”

Jackson Lee, who previously spearheaded a resolution to establish a commission to examine reparations for African Americans over slavery, said on the House floor that the Emmett Till Antilynching Act is “an important standard and statement.”