Killing the Pigford settlement (over and over again)

KILLING THE PIGFORD SETTLEMENT (OVER AND OVER AGAIN)…. President Obama announced something called the Pigford II settlement nearly six months ago. The agreement is a $1.15 billion settlement to compensate thousands of African-American farmers who faced decades of discrimination at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Repeatedly in recent months, the Senate Democratic leadership has tried to attach the Pigford measure to various spending bills, and in every instance, Republicans demanded it be removed. Every time it looked like the settlement might pass, the GOP made sure it didn’t. Every time Republicans made a new demand, Democrats met it, but it didn’t matter.

Yesterday, the leadership tried again, only to see Republicans block the settlement — twice. Rachel Slajda reports:

After being attached to and stripped from a variety of bills over the past few months, it seemed like it would pass before recess, and Majority Leader Harry Reid met twice in the past 10 days with John Boyd, the head of the National Black Farmers Association. But it just didn’t happen.

Yesterday’s failures came in the form of two objections to two unanimous consent requests. Senate leaders had tied the Pigford II money to another settlement, known as Cobell, which would grant $3.4 billion to Native Americans whose land trust accounts were mishandled by the government.

But Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the ranking member on the Indian Affairs Committee, objected. He objected because, in the settlement by the courts, there’s a $100 million cap on lawyers’ fees. He wants the fees capped at $50 million.

Barrasso argues that changing the cap would benefit the plaintiffs by allowing more of the settlement money to go directly to them, and he’s gone so far as to introduce new legislation to that effect. But because the settlement has already been agreed to by all parties, if it’s changed, it will have to go back to court for a hearing.

The settlement is now five months overdue. Dems will try again in September, but I’d bet $1.15 billion Republicans will find more excuses to kill it.

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