Senate approves long-delayed $1.15 billion black farmer settlement

The Senate on Friday afternoon approved $1.15 billion to fund a long-awaited legal settlement between the Department of Agriculture and black farmers who claimed government discrimination.

The upper chamber also approved $3.4 billion to settle complaints that the Department of the Interior mismanaged Native American money accounts.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) touted one of the first legislative accomplishments of the lame-duck session.

“Black farmers and Native American trust account holders have had to wait a long time for justice, but now it will finally be served,” Reid said in a statement. “I am heartened that Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to deliver the settlement that these men and women deserve for the discrimination and mismanagement they faced in the past. 

“This issue has been of great importance to me, and I am pleased these long-suffering Americans can now receive the closure that they deserve,” Reid added.

The 1999 settlement between the Agriculture Department and black farmers is one of the biggest in civil rights settlements in history.

Black farmers accused the government in a lawsuit of denying them loans in favor of whites.

The Senate approved the measure Friday afternoon by unanimous consent. It includes an extension of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Republicans agreed to pass the measure after Democrats found offsets to pay for it.

A Senate Democratic aide said the cost of the measure will be covered by surplus funds in the Women, Infants and Children nutritional assistance program, reducing overpayment of unemployment benefits and extension of customs user fees.

The House must approve the bill before it goes to President Obama for a signature. The House, which Democrats will control for a few more weeks, is expected to pass it easily.