WH: Biden would 'support' study on reparations

Psaki told reporters that Biden "continues to demonstrate his commitment to take comprehensive action to address the systemic racism that persists today."

Reparations have been used around the world to compensate victims of war, rape, terror and a host of other historical injustices.

But the United States has never made much headway in discussions of whether or how to compensate African Americans for more than 200 years of slavery and help make up for racial inequality.

HR-40, a bill to fund the study of "slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies" has been floated in Congress for more than 30 years, but never taken up for a full vote.

Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee reintroduced it in January and it was being debated by a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Biden told the Washington Post last year that "we must acknowledge that there can be no realization of the American dream without grappling with the original sin of slavery, and the centuries-long campaign of violence, fear, and trauma wrought upon Black people in this country."

But like nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates at the time, he did not embrace the idea of specific payments to slavery's descendants, instead promising "major actions to address systemic racism" and further study.

Video Transcript

- The president during the campaign supported the study for reparations, a committee to study reparations. There was a House Judiciary Committee hearing today. Does the president support the legislation? He stopped short of saying that during the campaign. Would he sign that if it came to his desk?

JEN PSAKI: Well, he supported a study of reparations, which I believe is what's being discussed, and studying the continuing impacts of slavery, which is being discussed in this hearing on HR-40, I believe it is. And he continues to demonstrate his commitment to take comprehensive action to address the systemic racism that persists today. Obviously, that is-- having that study is a part of that, but he has signed an executive order on his first day which would begin to deliver on his commitment to having an across-government approach to addressing racial inequality and making sure equity is a part of his entire policy agenda. But he certainly would support a study of reparations. We understands-- understands that we don't need a study to take action right now on systemic racism, so he wants to take actions within his own government in the meantime.