HELENA, Mont. July 23, 2010, 12:01 am ET The U.S. Senate has rejected a $3.4 billion government settlement with American Indians that had been added to a much larger war-funding bill.
The Senate passed the almost $60 billion bill funding President Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan late Wednesday — but not before stripping out the settlement and $20 billion in other domestic spending approved by the House.
The Senate's approval would have given the Obama administration the authority to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont. Between 300,000 and 500,000 Native Americans claim the Interior Department mismanaged billions of dollars held in trust by the government.
The House attached the settlement to the war-funding bill earlier this month.
Thursday's vote marks the second time the settlement has failed to pass the Senate. It was originally included in the Democrats' jobs-agenda bill that was caught in a filibuster last month.
Senator Harry Reid released this statement:
“I hoped that tonight the Senate could finally right a wrong that has been left unresolved for far too long. But Republicans stood in the way. For the fourth time in three months, Republicans blocked approval of the Pigford 2 and Cobell settlements for black farmers and Native American trust accounts respectively.
“As recent events have reminded us, the fact that justice and fairness were denied to black farmers for so many years continues to have ramifications today. That’s why I have fought for so long to ensure that these groups, who were robbed of the resources and opportunities they rightly deserve, are made whole again.
“Republicans should be held accountable for standing in the way of justice for those affected. Their obstruction has not only hurt our economic recovery and our growth as a nation, it is now preventing individuals and families who suffered discrimination for decades from receiving a long-overdue resolution to their grievances.”