Democratic leadership slammed Republican opposition to legislation funding the multibillion-dollar settlement of a class-action suit by black farmers on Wednesday.
As Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla) blocked the bill in the Senate citing cost concerns, Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Steve King (Iowa), and Bob Goodlatte (Va.) called for an investigation of allegedly fraudulent claims the same day.
"If Republicans are fundamentally opposed to ending this injustice for black farmers and Native American trust account holders, they should at least have the courage to say so and stop playing games with this critical issue," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
In the decade-old lawsuit, known as Pigford v. Glickman, black farmers charged that the USDA withheld loans and grants they were qualified to receive. The case, though originally settled in 1999, failed to compensate tens of thousands claimants who filed late. The new settlement, which has the support of the Obama administration, would allow late filers to receive their settlements.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), for his part, says he doesn't see a conflict between ensuring that the claims are legitimate and offering additional payments.
"People who aren't entitled to it shouldn't get it, and that should be the Department of Agriculture's responsibility and the court's responsibility," he said.