Congress Must Pass a Clean Budget With No Legacy Riders or New 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 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. In past years, some of them managed to sneak through and are then held over from previous budget cycles as “legacy riders.” Dozens of organizations have joined together to form the Clean Budget Coalition in opposition to these measures. We’re calling on lawmakers to pass clean spending bills ahead of the September 30, 2022 funding deadline.
Clean Budget News & Resources (FY 2023)
Clean Budget News & Resources (FY 2022)
For more than a decade, Democrats have been pledging to bring increased transparency to America’s elections by requiring corporations to disclose their political spending, as a way to counteract the flood of “dark money” that’s been flooding into elections since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision granted businesses and nonprofits the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. But Democrats have repeatedly allowed Republicans to include language in must-pass spending bills blocking any efforts by the government to require public companies to disclose their spending — and they quietly did so again last month, too.
Tucked into the text of the $1.5 trillion, 2,741-page omnibus funding bill that was released in the middle of the night on March 9 are at least three provisions designed to protect corporations and dark money groups from money-in-politics transparency initiatives. The bill is considered “must-pass” legislation because it appropriates the money that the government needs to continue operating beyond Friday night, as well as billions in Ukraine aid. One provision in the bill would protect a loophole in IRS practices that allows political groups to register themselves under a section of law that exempts them from disclosing their donors under campaign finance laws.
When Congress approved a $1.5 trillion budget deal last week, it averted a government shutdown but didn’t address an issue that Democrats had vowed to fix. Since 2015, a budget rider has prohibited the S.E.C. from requiring companies to disclose details about their political spending. This constraint was highlighted after the Jan. 6 riot in the Capitol prompted a public reckoning about corporate donations, but it remains in place. That leaves the push for transparency on corporate political spending to investors and proxy proposals.
Democrats failed in their effort to strip a decades-old amendment from annual government funding legislation that blocks people from using Medicaid or other federal health programs to cover abortion services amid fierce opposition from Republicans. Senate Democrats previously omitted the provision, also known as the Hyde amendment, from legislation to fund the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education departments last year. It marked the first time in decades that Senate Democrats removed the amendment from their annual government appropriations bills.
In a major setback to D.C. leaders, Congress retained a provision preventing the city from commercializing marijuana in the omnibus spending package it unveiled Wednesday, dashing the city’s hopes for pushing through legislation to regulate recreational pot. The spending package also retained a long-standing rider — a type of restriction on how funds can be used — that would ban the District from using local funds to subsidize abortions for low-income women.
On the brink of gaining control in Washington, Sen. Chuck Schumer said emphatically in 2020 that “I am going to do EVERYTHING I can to end the federal prohibition on marijuana” if Democrats took back the Senate. But 14 months since winning, Senate Democrats haven’t even succeeded at changing the little things. This week offered the most dramatic example yet of Democrats’ inability to make any progress on their cannabis promises: The new government spending package released on Wednesday continues to prohibit Washington, D.C. from establishing a cannabis marketplace, more than seven years after District voters overwhelmingly backed legalization.