Even though a settlement for black farmers who were systematically discriminated against from 1983 to 1997 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has broad bipartisan support, Rep. Michele Bachmann along with Iowa’s Steve King came out against the Pigford II settlement on Monday. The agreement passed the Senate just before Thanksgiving by a voice vote and will be considered in the House this week. Bachmann called the settlement fraud, while King said it amounted to slavery reparations.
“Figure this out, Madame Speaker,” King said on the House floor on Monday. “We have a very, very urban senator, Barack Obama, who has decided he’s going to run for president, and what does he do?” King said. “He introduces legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim.”
“We’ve got to stand up at some point and say, ‘We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress,’” he continued. “That war’s been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood, and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there’s no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one’s filing that claim.”
Bachmann, speaking after King, acknowledged her fellow Republican. “I want to thank the gentleman from Iowa, Steve King. It was some months ago when Steve King first had told me about the situation with Pigford.”
“The numbers bespeak obvious fraud in this situation,” she said referring to the large number of claimants, 94,000, “and the taxpayers are supposed to pay out another $1.15 billion dollars?”
She said, “After all of this terrible discrimination that’s been alleged, after billions have been paid out… there isn’t even one employee after all this discrimination at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that has been fired, that’s been suspended, that’s been fined, that’s been reprimanded. We can’t find evidence of even one.”
“Why have this settlement? Why pay out 94,00 thousand claims? What’s going on?”
She lamented that class-action lawsuits are beginning alleging discrimination against Hispanic and women farmers.
“Why is the U.S. Department even allowed to be in business anymore, if this is true? Every single claimant needs to be fully investigated,” she said. “We are here talking about cutting the budget, I think this is the first place to cut. This is just flat out wrong. Can we be gutsy enough on the house floor to say this is a complete fraud?”
The House is expected to vote on the issue on Tuesday before it goes to President Obama for a signature.