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.
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.
Appropriators in the U.S. House of Representatives should remove three harmful anti-democracy riders that were added to last year’s budget, Public Citizen and 27 other groups said in a letter sent today. All three riders are expressly overturned by H.R. 1, which will be introduced in the U.S. Senate this week after being passed by the House earlier this month. Regardless of the fate of H.R. 1, House appropriators can act now and remove these measures from spending legislation this year.