Congress Must Pass a Clean Budget With No Poison Pill Riders
More Than 265 Organizations Are Calling for Clean Spending Bills With No Poison Pills
Every year, Congress must pass a series of budget and spending bills to fund the services and safeguards that protect our families and communities. In recent years, lawmakers have threatened to attach hundreds of harmful policy riders to this legislation that would weaken, repeal or block essential public protections. Most of these measures are special favors for big corporations and ideological extremists that have nothing to do with funding our government and could not become law on their own merits. More than 265 organizations have joined together to form the Clean Budget Coalition in opposition to these poison pills. We’re calling on federal lawmakers to pass a clean budget with no harmful riders ahead of the Sept. 30 funding deadline.
The debate surrounding abortion access is about to spill over from the campaign trail to Capitol Hill as lawmakers begin debating must-pass appropriations bills. Starting Wednesday, the House will take up a nearly $1 trillion spending package written by Democrats that would roll back Trump administration anti-abortion policies, including restrictions barring health clinics from recommending abortion services and preventing U.S. foreign assistance to aid groups that perform or promote abortions. But the massive spending bill keeps in place the four-decades-old Hyde amendment, which prevents federal health care funding, including Medicaid, the insurance program for low-income beneficiaries, from covering abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the woman’s life. The amendment is named for the late Illinois Republican Rep. Henry J. Hyde, who sponsored the original language. That’s an increasingly difficult position for Democrats to defend these days, given the outcry on the campaign trail even among presidential candidates who’ve voted for Hyde in the past. Former Vice President Joe Biden, a self-described “practicing Catholic,” became the latest high-profile Democrat to publicly disavow the Hyde amendment Thursday after taking fire from fellow candidates and interest groups.
Cutting down trees and burning them to make electricity is not a climate solution, and, thankfully, Congress took an important step toward recognizing that this week. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives eliminated a long-running—and ambiguous—provision in a spending bill that the Environmental Protection Agency inappropriately interpreted to mean it must recognize all so-called biomass energy as carbon neutral. The fight is not over yet, as the industry will fight hard to re-insert this dangerous “rider” into the Interior-EPA appropriations bill as its advances in the House and Senate. Congress must reject this effort, and the action of the House committee is a key step in the right direction.
In past years, lawmakers managed to sneak dozens of controversial riders into spending bills that never belonged in the first place and should be removed.
If you have followed the budget battles over the past few years, you know how difficult it can be for lawmakers in both chambers to reach a deal. You also may be aware of the threat posed by poison pill policy riders. These measures, inserted by unscrupulous lawmakers into “must pass” spending bills to reward corporate donors and ideological extremists, have nothing to do with funding our government. In past years, the inclusion of these harmful measures has stood in the way of lawmakers from coming to an agreement, which is why many groups in the Clean Budget Coalition have fought hard to remove hundreds of them from the annual spending bills. Despite our best efforts, a few bad policy riders sneaked through. So this year, in addition to opposing new poison pill riders, many groups are fighting to remove old legacy riders from the funding bills. Some have been around for decades, while others are quite recent. It turns out that cleaning up the budget is also an opportunity for lawmakers to work together on cleaning up our politics because a few of the more recent legacy poison pills are contributing to corruption in the system.
It is often said that a president’s budget is a “statement of priorities.” Frequently, the administration’s proposed budget is little more than a wish-list that will bear little resemblance to the ultimate funding package upon which Trump and Congress will (hopefully) agree in order to avoid another shutdown. Congress still needs to pass the actual appropriations bills, and in addition to advocating to oppose these types of dangerous proposed cuts to agency funding, we also need to ensure that the budget process is not hijacked for partisan purposes. All too often in recent years, Congress’ role in the budget process has been abused to enact dangerous, unpopular policies that harm the public. By inserting “poison pill” policy riders into must-pass appropriations bills, some members of Congress routinely push forward policies that would damage Americans’ health, wealth, and environment.