The United States has never voted on a reparations bill, despite the fact that one was introduced in 1989. The committee has now voted to advance plans for paying trillions of dollars in reparations to forty million descendants of African slaves who worked in the country’s plantations and mines. These payments would be similar to back pay for the free labor that slaves were forced to offer throughout the country’s history and before when it was a colony of England.

Although the Judiciary Committee voted to send the reparations bill on for further consideration, this does not guarantee that descendants of slaves will receive compensation. It does, however, indicate an improvement in restoring historical injuries. Living in America has been difficult for black people throughout history.

Because the Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives, the reparations bill has a good chance of passing there. However, because California’s Elizabeth Warren is vice president and Kamala Harris would vote if necessary to break a tie, it will be more difficult for reparations to pass in the Senate since at least ten Republicans would need to defect from their party and side with the progressive movement.

Although this is only the beginning of the reparations debate, New York Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, who sponsored the bill, called it a victory for Black people following the passage.

“No such bill has ever come this far during Congressional history of the United States,” she stated, after the vote.

H.R. 40, the bill in question, aims to establish a thirteen-person committee that would study and analyze whether descendants of slaves should be compensated by the United States government for using their family’s slave labor to help build the country’s economy over several centuries.

If the reparations bill is ever passed, around forty million Black people may be eligible to receive compensation in the billions of dollars. Despite the fact that a precise dollar figure for slave labor provided by forefathers must be determined, it is clear that America was built on the back of slave labor, particularly during its colonial years and prior to the Civil War.

Meantime, during his meeting with leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus last week, President Joe Biden restated his support for reparations for African Americans.

“We did bring up the issue of reparations,” said Representative Jackson Lee outside the White House on Tuesday, after the Black Caucus meeting with President Biden had finished.“We have heard not only from the president but the White House and his team that he is committed to this concept. We are grateful for that.”

The state of North Carolina has made financial compensation to individuals who were chemically castrated (sterilized) by the government. In speaking about this, Democratic Representative Deborah Ross mentioned how her state had paid reparations to those affected.

“I don’t believe that this particular resolution prescribes a way of going forward, but it’s a conversation about what we need to do,” Ross said. “And just as we did in North Carolina when we passed a bill compensating people for forced sterilization, a terrible, terrible chapter in our history.”

Cities throughout the country, from Evanston, Illinois, to Providence, Rhode Island are considering reparations for their Black residents.