The House today passed a bill authorizing the funding of two massive settlements, one for black farmers discriminated against by the USDA and another for American Indians whose oil, gas and water rights were mismanaged by the U.S. government. The vote was 256 to 152.
The funding will now go to the President’s desk for his signature.
The $1.25 billion Pigford II settlement, for black farmers who were denied loans and other assistance in the 1980s and 90s, was settled in court in February. The $3.4 billion Cobell settlement for American Indians was settled last December. They’ve been attached to numerous bills since and repeatedly failed, largely due to objections from Republicans.
The Senate passed the funding two weeks ago after Democrats agreed to fund it with cash from other programs, including a food stamp program’s surplus and Customs fees.
The bill met vocal opposition from two Republicans the House, Reps. Steve King (IA) and Michele Bachmann (MN), who claimed the settlement was, respectively, “slavery reparations” and “pure and complete fraud.” King is a longtime opponent of the settlement and has been speaking out in hearings and on the House floor for months.
John Boyd, the president of the National Black Farmers Association and perhaps the most vocal advocate for the settlements in Congress, told TPM, “It’s a very very historic day for black farmers.”
“It’s a big day for race relations in this country,” said Boyd, who drove a tractor through D.C. for several days in September to urge Congress to pass the funding. “We took another step toward bringing this country together.”
As for King, Boyd said, “He appears to be very racist.”