This was a vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation approving settlements in discrimination lawsuits brought against the federal government by African American and Native American farmers. The bill also extended for six months the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides cash assistance to America’s poorest families.
The bill provided $1.15 billion to compensate African American farmers who had brought a class action lawsuit against the Agriculture Department for discrimination. In addition, the measure provided $3.4 billion to settle the class action lawsuit brought against the Interior Department by Native American farmers.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “Passing this measure will bring closure for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been mistreated or had their rights violated by the government….Another critical provision in this bill is the extension of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, also known as TANF. This comes at a time when so many Americans are struggling financially and are due to lose the support of this program if the House does not act.”
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) argued that, in the case of the settlement with black farmers, the number of discrimination claims had risen dramatically since 1997– an indication, she contended, that some of those claims were fraudulent. She said: “Alarmingly, when this case was originally brought forward in 1997, it was then estimated that 2,000 farmers may have suffered from discrimination by the USDA. Today, while the number widely varies, it is estimated that approximately 65,000 potential claims exist.” With respect to the settlement with Native American farmers, she contended that the Obama administration had not proved that “these settlement amounts represent a net benefit to taxpayers as compared to the consequences and costs of litigation.”
The House agreed to this resolution by a vote of 223-168. 221 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted “yea.” 159 Republicans and 9 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation approving settlements in discrimination lawsuits brought against the federal government by African American and Native American farmers, and extending a cash assistance program for poor families for 6 months.