Under legislation passed by the Senate on Friday, black farmers who claim discrimination at the hands of the Agriculture Department would receive almost $1.2 billion. American Indians who say they were swindled out of royalties by the Interior Department would split $3.4 billion. Both cases have languished for more than a decade, and plaintiffs say beneficiaries are dying off.
The legislation was approved in the Senate by voice vote Friday and sent to the House. The money had been held up for months in the chamber as Democrats and Republicans squabbled over how to pay for it.
Lawmakers from both parties have said they support resolving the claims of discrimination and mistreatment by federal agencies. But the money has been caught up in a fight over spending and deficits. Republicans repeatedly objected to the settlements when they were added on to larger pieces of legislation. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., satisfied conservative complaints by finding spending offsets to cover the cost.
For further detail on the agriculture lawsuits, please this Washington Post article.