The U.S. Senate approved spending $4.6 billion for civil settlements with black farmers who alleged racial discrimination by government lenders and with 300,000 American Indians who say they have been cheated out of land royalties dating back to 1887.
Passage of the measure by voice vote today unblocks a legislative logjam that has thwarted payouts of $1.15 billion to black farmers and $3.4 billion to American Indians. The two settlements were negotiated by the Obama administration.
The measure must now be considered by the U.S. House. Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House majority leader, said he hoped to seek a vote on the measure after Congress returns from a weeklong recess on Nov. 29.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today in a statement that the Senate’s “bold step” to finance the black farmers’ settlement “marks a major milestone in USDA’s efforts to turn the page on a sad chapter in our history.”
At least seven times this year, Senate Republicans blocked efforts to include the spending provisions in pending legislation.
Their objections prompted repeated complaints by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who said in an Aug. 5 statement that Republicans’ “petty political calculations” were “denying justice to these Americans.”