Editorial Board Alert: Corporate, Ideological Riders Could Lead to a Shutdown

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Corporate, Ideological Riders Could Lead to a Shutdown

Experts Available to Discuss How Policy Riders and Funding Cuts Would Harm Workers, Consumers, Families and Our Environment

Sept. 5, 2017

Contact: David Rosen, drosen@citizen.org, (202) 588-7742

In the next few weeks, the U.S. Congress must pass either appropriations legislation funding our government for the year ahead or a short-term continuing resolution allowing lawmakers more time to reach an agreement. If Congress fails to act before midnight Sept. 30, the government will shut down. One of the main obstacles standing in the way of a deal is the proposed inclusion of hundreds of policy riders – extraneous measures that do not belong in funding legislation. These special favors for corporations and ideological extremists should be removed from any final or short-term budget agreement.

The Clean Budget Coalition came together in 2015 to fight harmful policy measures like these that have no place in government funding legislation. Today, the coalition is made up of more than 190 local, state and national organizations who have joined together to oppose poison pill appropriations riders, while representing a broad and diverse cross section of the public interest community. Even after just a few short years, the Clean Budget Coalition already has gained a reputation on Capitol Hill as an agile and effective force for good, trusted by our allies and respected by our adversaries.

The coalition’s leaders would like to set up a call with one or more of the members of your editorial board to discuss some of the major public policy concerns raised by funding cuts and policy riders – including how they might impact your community. Please see below for a list of experts who can speak with you about what is certain to be one of the major legislative battles in Washington this fall.

Americans deserve a budget that protects our basic standards of living and our children’s health, creates jobs and lifts wages – not one rigged for billionaires and CEOs and replete with special favors unrelated to government funding. Instead, the proposed congressional FY 2018 spending bills attack Americans from all sides by slashing the services and safeguards we all count on. Whether it’s through funding cuts to the agencies that protect us or riders that repeal basic safeguards, lawmakers are using the budget to pay back the big corporations and ideological extremists who funded their campaigns.

Most of these measures are unpopular, controversial and could not become law on their own merits. So unscrupulous lawmakers are attaching them to must-pass appropriations legislation as riders, bypassing the normal legislative process. It’s sneaky, underhanded and undemocratic.

Members of Congress must stop playing these reckless games with the budget and keep poison pill riders out. They are risking a costly and disruptive government shutdown that no one – except, shockingly, the president – wants. (The White House has been sending mixed signals on its intentions.) That is why members of both parties, including the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, recognize that ideological policy riders are an impediment to responsible governing and can be a primary cause of a government shutdown.

The costs of a shutdown would fall hardest on the federal government’s civilian employees, who are sent home without pay until funding is restored. A shutdown means millions of people across our country would lose access to cultural, historical and recreational opportunities such as museums and national parks. Additionally, many government services and monitoring programs would pause their operations, and payments would be delayed to contractors and small companies that do business with the federal government. The overall economic impacts can exceed $1 billion per day depending on the circumstances and timing of the shutdown.

Some of the proposed ideological riders – such as a measure that would fund a border wall and a measure that would stymie Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s suspected collusion with Russia – reflect administration demands that are simply too controversial to pass through regular order. Others – many of which have been defeated in previous budget cycles – make the budget read more like a corporate and ideological wish list than a funding bill.

These riders would repeal the Clean Water Rule, cancel endangered species protections for grey wolves and sage grouse, allow more secret corporate spending (PDF) in political campaigns, block offshore wind projects, repeal the government’s orderly liquidation authority needed in a financial crisis, block a commonsense annual inventory requirement for gun dealers, eliminate Title X family planning funding, cancel a number of healthy school lunch standards, repeal the fiduciary rule that protects workers’ retirement savings and more.

There are hundreds of harmful riders like these – too many to list them all here. None of them are acceptable. All of them must be removed. If lawmakers refuse to set aside the special favors for corporations and ideological extremists, children, workers, small businesses and other taxpayers will pay the price.

The individuals listed below have led the fight against harmful appropriations riders and can speak for the major constituencies harmed by the budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks lawmakers are proposing.

Jonathan Asher is the senior representative for government relations at The Wilderness Society. With prior experience on Capitol Hill and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he is an expert on congressional process and the impacts funding priorities and policy riders would have on environmental and conservation issues, most notably on the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Lisa Gilbert is the vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. As co-chair of the Clean Budget Coalition, she can speak about the threat of poison pill riders with specific focus on campaign finance reform and government accountability, Wall Street reform, civil justice, consumer product safety, public health and regulation.

Peg Seminario is the director of occupational safety and health for the AFL-CIO. Since 1977, she has led the federation’s efforts to seek improved safety and health protections for workers, working on the development of dozens of safety and health regulations including the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards on asbestos, lead and silica. She can comment on budgetary concerns and riders related to worker health and safety as well as regulation.

Dana Singiser is the vice president of public policy and government affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She can comment on funding cuts and riders related to women, reproductive health and health care policy.

Alex Taurel is the deputy legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters. He can address a broad array of environmental, scientific and public health concerns with the budget and riders.

Please contact any of the individuals listed at the top of this alert to schedule a conference call or to speak one-on-one with an expert. The coalition hopes that you will join the call for a clean and constructive budget – one that funds and protects America’s hardworking families, our communities and our environment – instead of a budget aimed at tax giveaways for millionaires, billionaires and corporations.