President Obama earlier this month signed into law a measure to pay American Indians and black farmers a total of $4.6 billion to cover decades of government mistreatment. Now, a Republican congressman says the GOP-controlled House next year will hold hearings to investigate the settlement, which he says amounts to "reparations."
Conservative Rep. Steve King of Iowa told local radio station KCIM that the Pigford settlement, which was part of the legislation, "is full of fraud" and "amounts to paying reparations to black farmers in America. We don't do reparations in America."
King said he expects Republicans to examine this issue and other issues Democrats may be hesitant to investigate, such as the re-organization of the defunct group ACORN. This isn't the first time King has criticized the settlement, Talking Points Memo points out.
The Pigford class-action lawsuit (named for Timothy Pigford, a black farmer from North Carolina who was an original plaintiff) alleged that local offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture practiced widespread discrimination against black farmers when awarding loans and other aid.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last month defended the settlement on CBSNews.com's "Washington Unplugged", disputing suggestions that the suit is "full of fraud." Of the 17,000 or 18,000 cases that were adjudicated in the first Pigford settlement, only three were found to be marginally questionable, Vilsack said.
"It's a fair indication there were problems that needed to be addressed," he said. "We're going to try to turn this page and move onto a more positive chapter in civil rights in the USDA."
As the USDA adjudicates the new round of cases, it is also examining the way the department currently distributes loans, according to Vilsack. The USDA has hired an outside consultant to review its operation in the 16 states that led to these claims and will implement any necessary changes next year.
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.