Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina challenged a proposed $ 5 billion debt repayment fund that would benefit historically disenfranchised black farmers as part of the $ 1.9 billion stimulus package against coronaviruses, calling it “repairs.”
Graham, a Republican, criticized what he called the Democratic “wish list” in the stimulus deal in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday.
“Let me give you an example of something that really bothers me. In this bill, if you are a farmer, your loan will be forgiven for up to 120% of your loan … if you are socially disadvantaged, if you are African American, another minority. But if you are [a] white person, if you are a white woman, no forgiveness. It’s repairs. What does this have to do with COVID? ”Graham asked.
The US bailout has allocated $ 10.4 billion to agriculture and about half will go to disadvantaged farmers, the Washington Post reported, citing Farm Bureau estimates. About a quarter of disadvantaged farmers are black and the funds will go to subsidies, debt relief, education, training and other forms of assistance, according to the Post.
Black farmers have lost over 12 million acres of land in the United States over the past century due to “systemic racism, biased government policies, and social and business practices that have denied African Americans fair access. to markets, ”The Washington Post reported.
As part of the stimulus package, payments of up to 120% would go to “socially disadvantaged” farmers, which a House code defines as those who have been “subject to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity. as members of a group regardless of their individual qualities.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, criticized Graham for his comments on Wednesday.
“Lindsey Graham is originally from South Carolina. He knows the history of South Carolina. He knows what the state of South Carolina and this country have done to black farmers in South Carolina. They didn’t do it to the white farmers. We are trying to save people’s lives and livelihoods. He should be ashamed of himself, ”Clyburn said in an interview with CNN. “I think you should go home and maybe go to church.” Get in touch with his Christianity.
The issue of racial inequality extends far beyond agriculture. In 2016, the average net worth of a white family in the United States was $ 171,000, ten times more than the average net worth of a black family, according to the Brookings Institution, which cited centuries of discriminatory policies. against the black community. for the disparity.
Democrats are expected to pass the back-up plan on Wednesday through the reconciliation process, which allows for a “fast-track review” of spending, tax and debt legislation and allows lawmakers to bypass the 60-vote requirement to do so. advance legislation in the Senate.
The bill, which passed the Senate 50-49, will head to President Joe Biden’s office for signature once the House approves changes to its version – putting Congress on track to implement the legislation before millions of Americans lose their unemployment benefits on March 14. .