Heated and emotional debate on Capitol Hill about reparations

Should the federal government pay billions of dollars in reparations to African Americans who are descended from slaves...as a way to make amends for the atrocity of American slavery?
2:43 | 06/19/19

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Transcript for Heated and emotional debate on Capitol Hill about reparations
Former vice president Joe Biden facing backlash after what he said about congress needing to work together, the ability to work with others. Biden citing segregationist senators. Here's Terry Moran. Reporter: In a packed hearing room, an emotional debate. Should the federal government pay billions of dollars in reparations to African-Americans who are descended from slaves as a way to make amends for the atrocity of American slavery? Slavery is the original sin. Slavery has never received an apology. Reporter: This hearing, the first on the issue in a decade, actor Danny glover and democratic senator and presidential candidate Cory booker making the case for reparations. Even before the hearing began, Mitch Mcconnell weighing in, and sparking controversy. I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea. We've tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation, by electing an African-American president. Reporter: That touched a nerve. Writer ta-nehisi Coates firing back. For a century after the civil war, black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror. A campaign that extended well into the life of majority leader Mcconnell. Reporter: This debate coming on the same day vice president Joe Biden drew fire from fellow Democrats for his comments at a fundraiser last night, recalling a bygone era of civility in Washington. Biden spoke of two segregationist senators, saying of one, Herman Talmadge of Georgia -- "One of the meanest guys I ever knew. You go down the list of all these guys. Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done." And Biden recalling the white supremacist senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi. "He never called me boy. He always called me son." Several of Biden's rivals in the campaign stunned by Biden's comments, including senator kamala Harris. To coddle the reputations of segregationists, of people who, if they had their way, I would literally not be standing here as a member of the United States senate, is I think, it's just -- it's misinformed, and it's wrong. Sterry, the Biden campaign responding? Reporter: That's right. The campaign adviser -- Unfortunately we don't have Terry's audio. But the Biden campaign saying he was talking about working together, and they will move on.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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