Merkley, Williams Joint Statement on Momentum for Abolition Amendment Ahead of Juneteenth

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and U.S. Representative Nikema Williams (D-GA-05) today issued the following statement to mark Juneteenth and the recent progress for their Abolition Amendment—a bipartisan, bicameral resolution that would strike the ‘Slavery Clause’ of the 13th Amendment, a constitutional loophole which allows slavery “as a punishment for crime” in the United States:

“This country was founded on the principles of equality and justice—principles that have never been compatible with the horrific realities of slavery and white supremacy. Our Abolition Amendment brings us one step closer to achieving true justice and equality for all by eliminating the loophole in the 13th Amendment that allows for slavery.

“This Slavery Clause in our Constitution not only allowed slavery to continue but also launched an era of discrimination and mass incarceration that continues to this day. Millions of people—particularly people of color—have been stripped of their most basic human rights, and it is far past time to right that wrong.

“Our amendment puts an end to slavery as a punishment for committing a crime and allows us to address our nation’s shameful era of discrimination and exploitation. Momentum is on our side to get this done—we’re continuing to build robust support here in the Senate and House. In seven states across the country, including in Oregon, we’ve succeeded in getting the slavery clause out of states’ constitutions and many other state movements are currently underway. We remain committed to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to deliver on federal action to end this sinister loophole once and for all.”

The new cosponsors of the Abolition Amendment are U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Peter Welch (D-VT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was an original cosponsor of the amendment in June 2023.