Cold Case Act Awaits Presidential Signature to Become Law

Jan. 7, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Time is running out for President Donald Trump to sign the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018, which passed Congress near-unanimously in December 2018. The legislation, which would seek justice for the victims of unsolved civil rights-era crimes, has received bipartisan support, notably from Senators Doug Jones (D-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Legislative convention allows the president 10 days to sign any bill which passes through both chambers of Congress. Otherwise the legislation automatically becomes law. However, if Congress adjourns before the bill is signed, the legislation is not passed—a tactic typically referred to as a “pocket veto.” This is the situation which the Cold Case Act finds itself in after gaining the approval of Congress just before the end of the 115th legislative session. If the President does not sign the legislation by Jan. 8, it will expire and Congress will not have the opportunity to respond.

The Cold Case Act was written over three years ago by students in an AP civics class from Hightstown High School in New Jersey. In March 2017, Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) introduced the legislation into the House; over a year later, in July 2018, it was introduced by Jones into the Senate. On Dec. 21, 2018, it became the first piece of original legislation written by high schoolers to pass through Congress.

“This legislation has made a remarkable journey from its conception in a high school classroom to its passage in Congress today,” Jones said in a statement announcing the passage of the bill through Congress. “From the students who first brought their draft bill to my attention years ago to the journalists and researchers who study these civil rights cold cases to my colleagues Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Bobby Rush, this was truly a team effort to do the right thing by these victims and their families. While we can’t change history, we can and should do whatever we can to seek truth and healing. Today, we took an important step forward in the effort to ensure justice delayed is not justice denied.”

The students working on the Cold Case Act, as well as their teacher Stuart Wexler, urge the President to sign this important legislation before it expires. It is common-sense, bipartisan reform which has the backing of Congress. In addition, the CBO estimates that the Cold Case Act “would not significantly increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits.”

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