BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the privilege to be recognized here on the floor of the House of Representatives to address you about the issues that are important, I think, to you and to all of us who serve in this United States Congress. As we know, the American public watches the work that we do here, and sometimes we need to send a message along on how we would like to hear that work interpreted.
Today I will take up two or perhaps three subjects. One of them is a piece of legislation that is an amendment that I offered on the Agriculture appropriations bill that did pass the House of Representatives today and became part of the bill, as final passage. That amendment was an amendment that had language in it that prohibited any of the funds in the bill from being used to support the telemed components of this, which are used to distribute RU-486, or the legal drug name for RU-486, which we know, Mr. Speaker, is an abortion pill.
It has become a practice in Iowa where Planned Parenthood is using Iowa as an experimental State to do what I call Skype robo-abortions. Under the Food and Drug Administration regulations under RU-486, they are required to have a physician present who can conduct a number of emergency procedures, if necessary, to examine the patient.
And Planned Parenthood has circumvented this. They've clearly violated the intent of the regulation. I believe they literally violate the regulation of the FDA on RU-486, the abortion pill, and have set up and have been practicing what I call Skype robo-abortions.
In other words, a young woman who is pregnant would go to a Planned Parenthood center in Iowa, sit down in a room where there is a computer screen monitor in front of her on a desk that has a drawer in it, usually. And there are a number of different practices. A physician who might be 1,000 miles away is on the other end of the computer Internet connection, and this physician would then ask questions of this soon-to-be mother. And once she answers the questions to his satisfaction, or her satisfaction, the physician's satisfaction, there is a button pushed, a little drawer opens up, and the abortion pill rolls out and is there for the individual to take the pill, where she's advised to go home now, and your body will go through some significant changes and will expel this little baby. This is Skype robo-abortions.
Under the grant program that is facilitated by funding within this Ag appropriations bill, there have been already some grants that have been offered and presented to Planned Parenthood that have been administered by Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius' agency.
I know this, Mr. Speaker, because I headed up a letter that was signed by 70 Members of Congress, asking for the documentation and a form from Health and Human Services: Are you providing grants to abortion providers? to Planned Parenthood specifically? That answer was ``yes.'' And are these grants for telemedicine? That's the category that's in the bill, an Ag approps bill that just passed this House. There is $15 million for telemedicine.
Telemedicine is supposed to help so we can do diagnosis or can remotely diagnose, not so that we can do remote Skype robo-abortions. So the amendment that passed here clearly says, You can't use any of the funds for telemedicine that would be used to distribute or used to facilitate the RU-486 abortion drug. And there's a little more precise language than that. Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear that I put the precise language into the Record last night during the debate on that amendment, the precise language, which is the congressional intent for this amendment. There is no misunderstanding, however, Mr. Speaker, since Planned Parenthood also scored this vote and also interpreted it in the way that I have just stated.
So I just simply clarify this into the Record that these funds, under this appropriations bill, will not go to telemedicine grants that could be used for the purposes of facilitating the Skype robo-abortions that I've described. And I am grateful to the House of Representatives for a significant majority to pass that amendment. I am grateful for the strong pro-life majority that this Congress now has, the position that this Congress has taken a number of times, that it is, a lot of us believe, immoral.
Some others won't take that position. They say, It is unjust to compel taxpayers to fund abortions or to fund the facilitation of abortions through their tax dollars. In a way, it's the majority in this Congress now, the pro-life majority in this Congress, that has given the American taxpayer the voice of conscientious objection to the federally funded facilitation of abortions.
I am grateful that this Congress now has this majority. I am grateful that they've put this vote up again today, and there have been multiple votes in this new Congress that express the very sentiment that I have just expressed. So I am expressing, Mr. Speaker, my gratitude to the House of Representatives. And my commitment continues forward down this theme until we can one day see an end to the ghastly and ghoulish and gruesome procedures that sometimes are described as ``women's health services.'' They are not, and they are not good for women's health either, Mr. Speaker.
So then I would transition into the second amendment that I offered. Last night, the vote was rolled on until within the last couple of hours here in the House of Representatives. That was the amendment that addressed the Pigford Farms issue. Now, this issue is about the class action lawsuit that was filed by a gentleman by the name of Timothy Pigford in the aftermath of an announcement that was made by then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman in 1995.
The Secretary of Agriculture in '95 admitted that the USDA had been discriminating against black farmers. That opened the door for a class action lawsuit. The class action lawsuit has been known as the Pigford suit because it was Timothy Pigford that filed the suit, and his claim was that he was discriminated against. I believe that he has been, at this point, compensated, but I don't have a way to prove that because the records for Pigford are sealed. Congress at this point can't get at the records for the settlements in the largest class action lawsuit in the history of the United States of America.
But here are the numbers, Mr. Speaker. The numbers work out to be this: In 1995, in anticipation of negotiations with a consent decree on the black farmers' discrimination case against the Department of Agriculture, they anticipated 3,000 would be the sum total universe of the black farmers who had been discriminated against who might file under the Pigford class action lawsuit, 3,000. That's out of a universe of 18,000 black farmers.
Now, whenever you are going to look at the potential for how many applicants there will be, you first look at the total universe to determine then what the percentage you think would be filing claims of that total universe and would actually have a claim.
The 3,000 was surely calculated as, I think, one-sixth of the overall total universe of 18,000 black farmers. They must have thought then, with an informed judgment, that one out of six black farmers had been discriminated against and would file. Well, it didn't turn out to be one out of six black farmers. It turned out to be about 1 1/2 out of every black farmer that filed under Pigford I, not quite 1 1/2 . But there ended up being 22,000 and some odd claims with black farmers. So out of that came 15,000 and some settlements of, we believe, $50,000 at a minimum. And that, Mr. Speaker, was a number of claims that was greater than the number of actual black farmers.
Now, I don't have a problem with carrying this debate when I look at the universe of 18,000 and I see that 22,000 and some filed a claim. Surely some of those that filed a claim were not farmers, and surely some of those who filed a claim had not been discriminated against. It took both of those standards in order to pay out, presumably.
In any case, Pigford I was resolved. $1.05 billion was paid out under the Pigford claim of discrimination against black farmers. $1.05 billion with a ``b.''
I found out about this when a USDA employee who had been deployed to Washington, DC, in the very late nineties or maybe early 2000 came back home and was sick to his stomach that he had had to distribute these millions of dollars to people that he believed, 75 percent of them, at a minimum, had filed a fraudulent claim. He brought back the copies of those applications and presented them to me and said, please do something. This is an unjust payout of people that allege their victimhood of discrimination who were not farmers, never wanted to farm, didn't know where the Farm Service Administration was, the USDA office was. But yet they had been recruited to file the claim, and at least 75 percent fraudulent.
So I took all those applications, and I tell you, Mr. Speaker, I was blurred by it. I couldn't quite absorb all the implications by just reading the application and hearing the description of the individual that brought this back. He's not the only one. There are a number of others who willingly have come forward now and are willing to testify, and some of whom, especially in other States, that were directors of the Farm Service Administration who participated in the administration payout of the first $1.05 billion. But since that time, Pigford I was closed. It was then extended again for any late filers to get in, and then closed again. That's where we ended up with the 22,000 and change.
After that, Mr. Speaker, there was an effort that was brought forward here in Congress by Artur Davis of Alabama in one initiative, Bobby Scott of Virginia in another initiative to open this up under Pigford II. There was also an initiative in the United States Senate.
One of the people that introduced standalone legislation to open up Pigford II was Barack Obama himself as a United States Senator in the year 2007. The bill that he introduced was S. 1989. That legislation didn't go anywhere. It didn't have a single cosponsor, by my recollection, but it put the marker down.
There was a very, I'll say, urban senator from Chicago who was engaged in opening up a second round of Pigford when, in Illinois, the State that he represented--and truly he represented all of Illinois as a United States Senator--there were only 78 black farmers in the whole State. But the payout was 100 to 153 people. That's just a little snapshot measure of Illinois itself, without breaking this down county by county. Surely, I mean, it is certain that there were more claims paid out in Pigford than there were black farmers in Illinois. And probably, I'll say that's not necessarily true in every single case in every single county, but we know that's the case for Illinois.
At any rate, it became a political tool, in my view. And as they tried to open up Pigford II in the House, it didn't pass the House. When it did finally pass the House, it didn't pass the Senate. Finally in the Senate, during the lame duck session late last fall--actually, November 22--there was an action that put the Pigford issue in together with the Cobell issue and the other Native American claims on a bill called the Claims Act. The Claims Act included TANF funding, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Family supplemental, that went in with the Claims Act.
With all of this that was out there, the Pigford case didn't fit, but my back channel information tells me that the President ordered that Pigford be attached to the Cobell and Claims Act, which they did in the Senate. And because it rode along on a piece of must-pass legislation, it passed out of the Senate, was messaged over to the House in November of last year, and passed after the election so that the discredited Congress, the lame duck Congress, voted to now appropriate another $1.5 billion into Pigford II.
That, Mr. Speaker, goes on top of the farm bill, which was a 2008 farm bill. Sometimes I do better thinking about this chronologically. But in 2007, when we discussed and debated the farm bill here in the House, the chairman of the Ag Committee at the time, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, provided for and supported language in the farm bill that carved out a $100 million authorization for a second round of Pigford. When I objected and I said, Mr. Chairman, that will open the door for $1.3 billion in additional money to go into that fraudulent Pigford claim, his answer was, No, it's $100 million. That's the end of it. That's the limit. That caps it, and that settles all outstanding claims. You don't understand. This is the end of it, and it makes sure that it's done and it doesn't open up the door beyond $100 million. We had a disagreement--some would call it an argument--about whether that opened this up to $1.3 billion, which is what I said--that was my assertion, Mr. Speaker--or whether the then-chairman of the Ag Committee was right in that the $100 million was the cap.
Well, in any case, we know now who was right, because there is $1.25 billion in the pipeline for a second Pigford claim. $100 million of it was in the farm bill, and $1.15 billion of it was stuck into the Claims Act. And how did that number get arrived at? According to the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, he told me that I voted for the farm bill and directed him to go negotiate with the black farmers as a means of trying to put an end to this so that it limited the potential liability of the Federal Government.
No. When you go back and actually look at what happened, I voted ``no'' on the farm bill coming out of this House because, in part, it had the Pigford $100 million in it; and the language that's there says this is the end, that this is to resolve all outstanding unresolved claims over Pigford, $100 million.
As the chairman of the Ag Committee, Collin Peterson asserted that's the language that's in the bill. But the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and the Attorney General, Eric Holder, took that and somehow interpreted the plain language of the bill to direct them to go open up a second Pigford claim, which now turned into an additional $1.15 billion on top of the $100 million that was in the 2008 farm bill.
Where we started out with 3,000 potential claimants--excuse me--3,000 projected claimants to Pigford I, which would be the total sum of the claims out of a universe of 18,000 black farmers, now we have 94,000 claims, Mr. Speaker, 94,000 claims that have risen to the bait of 1.25 billion additional dollars. I'd point out, Mr. Speaker, that if you just round that to the nearest tenth of a billion dollars, I was spot on in my prediction that it would be a $1.3 billion door that was opened by the $100 million in the farm bill.
It has come to pass, just as I have said. It has been slipped in, forced in, pushed in, partly by the President of the United States, I believe at his directive. Certainly, he was delighted to sign it.
According to the Secretary of Agriculture, he believes he was directed by the farm bill to go and negotiate with the black farmers and open this up and ask for an additional $1.15 billion. The language limits; it doesn't empower. But he claims also the authority to negotiate in any case and that the Attorney General has the authority to negotiate in any case.
So here we are. When I asked the Secretary of Agriculture, who has been disciplined for perpetrating a total of $2.3 billion of discrimination against 94,000 people who claim to be black farmers, ``who are they? who's been fired? who's had charges brought against them?'' the answer, after a few questions, is ``no one.''
Think of this, Mr. Speaker: $2.3 billion worth of discrimination allegedly brought against black farmers--agreed to, apparently, by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Attorney General. They're looking for justice, and they can't find a single perpetrator of discrimination, and they're the ones that hired them. The checks go out today to employees of the USDA under the guidance of Secretary Vilsack. In not one of them can he uncover as a discriminator or perpetrator as even a part of the $2.3 billion that they allege was discrimination that took place, not one perpetrator on his payroll, even though every perpetrator had to be on his payroll or the payroll of his predecessors.
They can find 94,000 victims where only the universe of 18,000 exists, but he can't find a single individual that perpetrated discrimination. And we are to believe in the United States Congress that somehow this is just an example of where government went wrong and discriminated, and we're trying to right a wrong with a checkbook that comes from money borrowed from the Chinese and goes to people that could not have been farmers in the first place and could not, all of them, been discriminated against.
I can go further in that we have a whole list of discrimination claims that come from a county where the supervisors in the USDA office were all black. It's kind of hard for me to get my mind around how it can be racial discrimination of people by the same race against people of the same race. That's a little hard to define. When the Irish go at each other, they don't call it racial discrimination--just to put that in a metaphorical position so that people understand it clearly, Mr. Speaker.
I am very concerned that too many Members of this Congress understand how much fraud exists in Pigford, and they just don't want to put up the vote; they just don't want to put up the words to correct this and call it what it is. I'll say that the fear of being accused of not having the will to face a difficult subject matter is superceded by the fear of being called a racist, so they walk away from it.
I believe this: We must have equal justice under the law. We cannot continue to be a great country unless we continue to have equal justice under the law. That means that you deal with people without regard to their race, their ethnicity, or their national origin--or their gender, by the way, or their disability or their age. All of those things are immutable characteristics. Well, almost all of them are immutable characteristics. But it's defined clearly in title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Mr. Speaker, and broadened in some of the civil rights sections that take place within our States, which I abide by and live by.
But we cannot, Mr. Speaker, be a great Nation if we're always going to shrink away from difficult subjects, if we are going to pay out borrowed taxpayer money. We're borrowing 42 cents on every dollar. Some of that money is borrowed from the Chinese; some of it's borrowed from the Saudi Arabians. And we would take that money and borrow it and hand it to people and say please don't raise a fuss. I know that you are a minority; therefore, you must have been victimized at some place along the line.
This is being sold and marketed in the South in a number of different ways--fish fries in the South, sometimes in black churches in the South. And they say to the people that attend those kinds of gatherings things such as this: You know, you don't have to be a farmer. If your granddaddy was a farmer, you're a farmer. If you're the grandson of a farmer, you were discriminated against because surely somebody discriminated against your grandfather, and surely he would have been a rich farmer had they not done that, and surely you would have inherited the farm or some of the money that he made from that, so you've been discriminated against. If your granddaddy was a farmer, you're a farmer. You file. It's natural that you were discriminated against.
The regulations and the standards on this and the proof is so low that all an applicant has to do is allege that there was discrimination and then find someone who is not a close family member who will attest that they
complained about being discriminated against.
So Joe and George can get together and say, let's go file mutual applications and allege that we wanted to be farmers, we were discriminated against, and we complained. An automatic $50,000 check goes to them out of the borrowed money of American taxpayers, along with a $12,500 check that goes to the IRS to pay the tax liability. And they had the temerity, some of them, to complain that they weren't also getting their estate tax waived. So the money that would be settled goes into the estate if someone dies, obviously, and they didn't want to have to pay an estate tax on their inheritance. Now we can have a $1 million exemption, a $3 million or $5 million exemption. They still don't want to have to pay the tax beyond the exemption. That is not just temerity; that's audacity.
And another component of this, Mr. Speaker, is this part: that the largest civil rights class action lawsuit settlement in the history of the United States is Pigford. The single individual who has received the greatest settlement from that is Shirley Sherrod--Shirley Sherrod, the former USDA employee whom the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, hired 3 days after she received news that she was going to receive $13 million in her claim against Pigford. That was on July 22. He hired her on July 25.
Later on, when a speech that she gave before the NAACP came to light, then the Secretary fired her like that. I don't believe that that was an act that was his decision alone. I find the Secretary to be a wise, smart and a careful, well-prepared man--however often I disagree with him. I believe that order came from the White House. And he tried to hire her back. It didn't work until some weeks ago. Now she's back on the payroll, having filed a lawsuit against who? The guy who published the truth, Andrew Breitbart.
These are all things that this Congress needs to get to the bottom of, Mr. Speaker. This Congress needs to, if we have to, subpoena the records, go through the 94,000 applications, sort them, chart them, evaluate them, bring people under oath, gather testimony, do a complete investigation of what I believe is a fraud that's been perpetrated against the American taxpayer and done so within several different administrations. Some I believe was motivated for less than stellar reasons.
I think whenever someone has been discriminated against in these cases, we need to make them whole if we can. I support that. I think we did that for almost all of them in Pigford I. I think we made a bunch of people whole that did not have it coming, and then, by a legislative shenanigan and action of the White House, opened up a Pigford II that put the taxpayer on the hook for an additional $1.15 billion.
Now that sum is up to $2.3 billion, Mr. Speaker--$2.3 billion, 94,000 claims where there was 18,000 black farmers and an expectation of only 3,000 claims altogether, not a single identified perpetrator of discrimination, and Congress can't look at the records. Congress can't get a straight answer. A Freedom of Information Act request is denied by the USDA because it's sensitive? Sensitive? But the USDA releases as public all of the information that goes in farm subsidies. That's out there. And people go on the Web site and complain about the farm subsidies that are there. Why, if you're a farmer, should the subsidies that come to your operation be public knowledge, but if you are one who has alleged you've been discriminated against, your records are secret even from the United States Congress?
That is all wrong, Mr. Speaker. We know that. The conscience of this Congress has spoken today; 152 of us have spoken up, and I think the foundation for legitimate hearings has been heard.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT