This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would have prohibited funds provided by an agriculture bill from being used to pay settlements in discrimination lawsuits filed by black farmers. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Agriculture Department programs.
King urged support for his amendment: “…This amendment emanates from claims that were filed subsequent to a press conference held by then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman in 1995, who said that the USDA [the Agriculture Department] was discriminating against black farmers. I believe that happened. Their estimate at the USDA at that time was that there were approximately 3,000 black farmers who would file claims under what resulted in a consent decree in the late nineties. The 3,000 estimate became 22,551 claims of discrimination. But according to the census, there are 18,000 black farmers….Now we have not 3,000 claims. We still have 18,000 black farmers. Now we have 94,000 claims and report after report of fraudulent claims and marketing this as perpetuation of a fraud across this country. And my amendment shuts off the funding that would be used to administer or to fund the balance of these…claims, which this Congress must investigate the fraud that's here.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) opposed the amendment: “The opportunities for members to have amendments is a privilege that should not be denied. And I respect my colleague from Iowa for his right to offer an amendment. But it is tragic and disappointing that my friend from Iowa…would take this time to demean the tragic lives that black farmers, Native Americans farmers, and others impacted have experienced over several decades…I join the gentleman [Rep. King] in wanting to ensure the adequacy of the implementation of this settlement. I want to stand alongside a transparent system….But it would be absurd for any member to join and to vote to interfere with the legitimate settlement of legitimate claims that have evidenced the pain and devastation and disregard and disparate treatment and discrimination and unconstitutional treatment of farmers who we claim on this floor today to love. Farming is part of the American fabric. And if there's any body of people who understands farms, it is the ex-slaves who worked for 400 years without payment in the cotton fields of the South.”
The House rejected King’s amendment by a vote of 155-262. Voting “yea” were 155 Republicans. All 184 Democrats present and 78 Republicans voted “nay. As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have prohibited funds provided by an agriculture bill from being used to pay settlements in discrimination lawsuits filed by black farmers.