Deadlines for Congress to appropriate money to compensate black farmers as part of a discrimination settlement have come and gone.
Senate Republicans recently rejected a jobless benefits extension bill that included $1.2 billion for the farmers because the total package would have added $30 billion to the national debt.
Now the compensation is included an emergency war and disaster aid bill that passed the House of Representatives before the July 4 holiday and is headed toward the Senate for approval. But top-ranking Republican Sen. Thad Cochran has reportedly said the Senate probably won’t pass a war spending bill that includes unrelated provisions.
John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the issue has gotten caught up in partisan politics.
Boyd also told the newspaper that he had spoken to GOP senators who were supportive of the issue, but did not want to vote for the larger benefits extension package.
“I’ve always thought that I could get the bill through Congress on a freestanding vote,” he added. “I still believe that.”
A federal court found in favor of the farmers in the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than 10 years ago and more than $1 billion in debt relief and payments were awarded. The new settlement — known as Pigford II — will compensate thousands of farmers who missed the filing deadline.
The settlement is the largest civil rights payout in history.