Does Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) have something against African-Americans? That’s what some Capitol Hill lawmakers and others are starting to think. Last week, King launched an effort to defund the Pigford II settlement to compensate Black farmers for acts of racial discrimination against them by employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The House rejected his amendment to the USDA appropriations bill by a vote of 155-262. Republicans, including Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has publically questioned the settlement and is planning to officially enter the GOP presidential nominating race, cast all of the yea votes.
After the measure failed, King called for an investigation into the settlement, which he says is “rife with credible allegations of massive fraud.”
“I believe that an investigation into the program will reveal that the majority of claims that have been filed are fraudulent, and Congress should not turn a blind eye to the real possibility that the money is being used primarily to build political goodwill for the president instead of being used to properly address the much smaller universe of people who have actually suffered harm,” he said in a statement that indicated he believes that the “stage has been set” for an investigation.
Good luck with that. Rep. Darrell Issa, who heads the House oversight committee that would lead the investigation, voted against the amendment. More important, the claims have yet to be filed and judged on their merit.
The USDA has agreed to similar settlements with Native American, Hispanic and women farmers that are not being challenged.
“Why is it that just Black people are being labeled as frauds? This shows that these people are racist, especially King, and Black leadership needs to start calling it what it is,” John Boyd, Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, told BET.com. “And we have Bachmann, who wants to be president, voting to repeal something that’s going to help deliver justice and try to right the wrongs in America so we can move forward. I don’t think they’re the kind of people who can lead America in the right direction.”
Congressional Black Caucus members, who furiously canvassed the House floor, urging colleagues to vote against the amendment, were infuriated. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) called King’s effort an act of racism, plain and simple.
“This is his way of saying, “[Expletive deleted] you, [expletive deleted],” he said, using words that respectively begin with “F” and “N” that cannot be published on a family-friendly Web site.
Rep. Danny Davis (D-Illinois) quipped that CBC members would jump off of the World Trade Center, if it still existed, that is, before allowing such a measure to pass.
“For years, Black farmers have faced discrimination—not only from businesses, but from the very government that was meant to protect them. Not on our watch,” said CBC chairman, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. “We will not let that happen again. It is time that Republicans think of more meaningful ways to reduce the deficit, but not on the backs of hard working farmers or any other group of hard working Americans.”
(Photo: Official Congressional Photo)