Clean Budget News & Resources FY 2019
This resource bank contains FY 2019 budget cycle news articles, op-eds, editorials, blogs, letters to the editor, press releases, fact sheets, sign-on letters and other resources related to rescissions and riders. Please use the controls below to search, sort, filter and share.
Congressional aides on both sides of the aisle say they don’t see how the appropriations impasse ends without a partial government shutdown just in time for Christmas Eve. President Donald Trump signed a continuing resolution into law Friday that would change the expiration date of the stopgap measure enacted before the midterm elections to Dec. 21. But he wasted little time in taking aim at Democratic leaders for “playing political games” on border security funding, even as he prepares to sit down with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York in the Oval Office Tuesday. While many lawmakers are publicly expressing confidence a shutdown will be avoided, aides speaking on condition of anonymity said there is a widespread fear that the talks will collapse and lead to a shutdown. At the same time, there appears to be little appetite for a shutdown among Democrats and Republicans in Congress, especially days before Christmas and weeks before Democrats take control of the House. Republicans have taken the blame for shutdowns in 1995-1996, and again in 2013.
The long awaited end of year budget battle has arrived, and as usual it is coming down to the wire. You may have heard that the fight is over funding for the border wall called for by President Trump. But there is another key set of sticking points standing in the way of a bipartisan deal. They are known as poison pill riders, which are harmful and controversial measures that have nothing to do with funding our government. Some lawmakers try to sneak poison pill riders into budget and appropriations bills, thus undemocratically bypassing the normal legislative process.
The U.S. Congress on Thursday approved a two-week stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown, setting up a potential showdown over President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall later this month. Without action by Congress, funding for several federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, State Department and Department of Homeland Security, had been set to expire this week. The stopgap bill extends funding through Dec. 21.
Congressional leaders and White House officials agreed Monday to extend a government funding deadline by two weeks, until Dec. 21, setting up the possibility of a shutdown showdown just ahead of Christmas. The decision, confirmed by aides involved in the talks, was made because of the observances surrounding the death of former president George H.W. Bush. The former president will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda ahead of a service at Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday. The House has canceled all votes for this week. The current deadline is midnight on Friday, Dec. 7. The House and Senate are expected to approve the new deadline at some point this week. That could be done in the House by unanimous consent, without lawmakers present to vote.
Congress is expected to temporarily put off a funding fight this week that could have forced agencies, including EPA and the Interior Department, to shutter as the nation mourns the late President George H.W. Bush. Congressional leaders are hoping to put off a partial government shutdown ahead of Friday's deadline by passing a one- to two-week continuing resolution. With almost a quarter of the House not coming back in January, lawmakers are eager to wrap up work as soon as possible. Neither party wants to push the fight into next year. Lawmakers are eyeing an omnibus that would contain all seven of the unfinished fiscal 2019 spending measures, including Interior-EPA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Homeland Security, Transportation-HUD and State-Foreign Operations. Several spending bills, including for Energy-Water, were signed into law before Election Day. But those negotiations have been hobbled by the White House's insistence that the bill contain $5 billion in funding for border wall security sought by Trump. Appropriators have said the other spending bills are ready to move, devoid of most controversial riders, once the border funding fight is resolved.
As a lame-duck Congress heads into its dwindling session, legislators are being forced to reckon with the continuing resolutions passed to fund government activities earlier this year: They expire on December 7, at which point Congress needs to pass a real appropriations bill to keep the government open. Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans are at loggerheads over what’s going to be in that bill — and the result could be a partial government shutdown. Again. Congress must take up seven separate spending bills – each with its own riders and heated debate — and get them signed by the president.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking member on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, and leaders from the Clean Budget Coalition are calling on Congress to reject partisan, poison pills attached to the December spending bills. In a conference call recorded Thursday afternoon, Leahy and coalition leaders discussed the threat posed by harmful ideological and corporate policy riders that do not belong in federal funding legislation. Congress must act by Dec. 7 to avoid a partial government shutdown.
A diverse array of groups in the Clean Budget Coalition sent a letter today urging members of Congress to remove all of the partisan, poison pill policy riders from the December appropriations bills. While most of the government is funded for fiscal year 2019, a package of four appropriations bills has been stuck in conference committee negotiations since September, and Congress must act by Dec. 7 to avoid a partial government shutdown.
Time and time again, members of Congress attempt to quietly slip in corporate special interest wish list items that couldn’t pass as standalone legislation into must-pass funding packages as poison pill riders, and our champions have stood firm in opposition. We ask that you take that stance as Congress processes the remaining FY19 appropriations bills.
Lawmakers returned to the Capitol this week without an agreement on a year-end spending package that would wrap up seven unfinished bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Reaching a deal would require a lot of work in a very short period of time. Both chambers are scheduled to be in session for only eight legislative days before a stopgap funding law runs dry on Dec. 7. If no new package is passed by then, Congress would need another continuing resolution to avoid a partial government shutdown. The outstanding bills for fiscal 2019 encompass about 25 percent of the year’s $1.244 trillion in discretionary spending subject to budget limits. But the two parties are as divided as ever over how to parcel out the remaining $313 billion available under the budget caps and handle a collection of policy riders written chiefly by majority House Republicans who will be out of power come January.
Ultimately, the question of what happens to the remaining fiscal 2019 spending bills, and when, boils down to the following question: Can lawmakers reach a deal with the White House on some level of wall-related funding between the $5 billion in the House’s Homeland Security measure for “technology and physical barriers” and the Senate’s $1.6 billion worth of “pedestrian fencing”? There are early indications that Trump and Hill Democrats are ready to deal. In his post-midterm press conference, Trump said he wouldn’t necessarily accept a partial shutdown if the spending bill due Dec. 7 doesn’t have the full $5 billion. “I can’t commit to that,” Trump said. And on Monday, Leahy said his party was ready to talk more broadly about additional border security needs. “I’m willing to make some compromises provided we can get it done,” he said. But Leahy hinted that Democrats are ready to play a little “Art of the Deal” themselves if Trump makes some other concessions. “I’d want to see where it’s being spent . . . I can’t speak for my whole caucus, but there are a whole lot of aspects that are involved here, not the least of which are all the poison-pill riders in the House bill,” Leahy said.
Budget bills require a 60-vote minimum before reaching the Senate floor, so passing them usually requires significant compromise. Congress had approved bills covering roughly 75 percent of 2019 discretionary spending before breaking for Election Day, according to Murkowski, who said most of the appropriations packages passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support. The remaining agencies are funded through Dec. 7. The key to restarting normal budgeting order, which had been mostly dead since about 2010, was getting rid of “poison-pill” riders — partisan policy mandates often attached to the appropriations bills — that can immediately kill otherwise popular legislation.
The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee told reporters Monday that new border security funds must be used for fencing rather than a 30-foot concrete wall as Trump has advocated. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont said money for the border can’t be shifted from other domestic priorities, and that for both sides to cut a year-end funding deal the GOP must drop “poison pill” policy riders and adequately fund disaster relief for recent hurricanes and wildfires.
On September 28, Trump signed a giant appropriations bill that also prevented a government shutdown over border wall funded until December. Other than conservatives angry about abortion funding, no one much noticed, thanks to the Kavanaugh hearings. As congressional Republicans kept reassuring us all and each other, Trump was bluffing, and so he signed that “ridiculous Spending Bill” in what amounted to peaceful silence as Washington hung on every word from Kavanaugh and Ford and Flake and Graham and all the other characters in the confirmation drama. Government employees affected by the non-shutdown and the specific provisions of the appropriations measures noticed, of course. And so, too, did Christian-right types who were angry that their pet appropriations riders were left out. Here was the headline from CNS News on the story about the bill: “Trump Signs ‘Minibus’-CR That Funds Planned Parenthood and Aborted Baby-Parts Research.” Some of the same disgruntled conservatives may hope that Trump opts for a government shutdown when the continuing resolution runs out in December. It may be all they want for Christmas. But for now, there aren’t too many people noticing enough to share their outrage.
President Trump on Friday signed into law a spending bill that will provide full-year appropriations for several federal agencies and stopgap funding for a portion of government, staving off a partial shutdown at least until December. Lawmakers this week boasted of their accomplishments, noting that it had been 22 years since they last successfully passed as many full-year appropriations on time. Now that Trump has signed the bill into law, the Defense Department will not be forced to operate temporarily under a CR for the first time in 10 years. The Senate last week easily approved the bill. Democrats celebrated that the final bill, which went to conference committee after the House and Senate passed their own versions of it, was stripped of “poison pill” riders and fully funded agencies over Trump’s objections.
Clean-water opponents are pushing riders that would repeal the Clean Water Rule with nearly every piece of must-pass legislation in Congress, including the Farm Bill and appropriations bills that are still up for debate. Elsewhere, EPA Acting Administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler will soon unveil plans to replace existing policy with a rule that would slash protections for wetlands, streams and drinking water sources. If these efforts prevail, it will be a boon for developers, pipeline operators, and oil and gas companies, at the expense of Minnesotans water and health.
The House on Wednesday passed an $854 billion spending bill to avert an October shutdown, funding large swaths of the government while pushing the funding deadline for others until Dec. 7. The bill passed by 361-61, a week after the Senate passed an identical measure by a vote of 93-7. The package included two appropriations bills, which fully funded Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education for fiscal 2019, and make up about two-thirds of the annual appropriations total for the year. It also included a continuing resolution (CR) extending current funding levels for any unfunded agencies through the first two months of the fiscal year. “Just as important is what this bill does not include, the unnecessary partisan riders that caused House Democrats to oppose Labor-HHS in the appropriations committee,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), alluding to a variety of conservative policies that appeared in the original House version of the bill, including provisions restricting access to abortion and targeting Planned Parenthood. House conservatives were incensed that policy riders that passed in their chamber were stripped out of the final versions during negotiations with the Senate, which requires 60 votes to pass spending legislation. If Trump signs the bill, it will be the first time in 22 years that five spending bills were enacted on time. Last week, Trump signed a package of three bills, including military construction and veterans' affairs, legislative branch and energy and water. In total, the five bills amount to some 77 percent of the annual discretionary spending total. Meanwhile, the House and Senate were rushing to iron out differences on a third package of bills, including Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, and Financial Services and general government. With the House expected to adjourn on Friday until after the midterm elections, failure to do so would punt action on the bills until November or December.
The passed legislation package was a compromise from previous House- and Senate-passed versions. Appropriators in both chambers reconciled the versions into one package that the Senate passed Sept. 18. Senate and House versions of the legislation greatly mirrored each other in regard to proposed cuts to DOL spending. The House previously passed an appropriations package that would cut NLRB funding by about 5 percent. The compromise legislation also removed controversial labor-related policy riders like a provision that would have reversed an Obama-era NLRB decision expanding joint employer liability for businesses in staffing, franchise, and other contractual relationships.
"It's no secret that for the past 20 or so years, the appropriations process in Congress has been broken," said Jay Tilton, Leahy's Appropriations Committee press secretary. Spending bills have become magnets for unrelated policy riders, or "poison pills." For example, conservatives have frequently attached provisions to end all funding for Planned Parenthood or toughen immigration policy. The riders made it all but impossible to pass spending bills in regular order. So Congress has repeatedly flirted with government shutdowns while passing huge bills that include funding for most or all government operations in a single measure with no floor amendments. Congress has also "kicked the can down the road with continuing resolutions, which just continue the previous year's spending decisions without any changes in priorities," said Leahy communications chief David Carle. Leahy and Shelby worked out a way to restore the Senate's past practice of adopting separate bills for each area of government and allowing debate on the floor. Then they met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "We said, 'We can get these bills through, but we need your support,'" Leahy recalled. "They said, 'OK, if you can do it, we have other things to worry about, so do it.' And we did." The Shelby-Leahy deal was built on the foundation of a two-year budget agreement negotiated by McConnell and Schumer in February, which removed strict spending caps imposed by Congress in 2011. Shelby and Leahy reached accord on two key points. "They would not move on any appropriations bill if it didn't have bipartisan support," Tilton said. "It had to be free of poison-pill policy riders, and it had to be in line with the bipartisan budget agreement."
Negotiations on the Interior funding measure are “a very fluid situation,” Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), the appropriations subcommittee’s ranking member, told reporters last week. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) had previously said there were about 20 policy riders in the bill holding up talks. The House plans to vote Wednesday on the final version of the legislation including the defense and Labor-HHS bills and the continuing resolution. The Senate adopted the conference report by a 93-7 vote. The measure will likely gain widespread support among Democrats and many Republicans, despite conservatives’ complaints about the lack of Republican policy riders in the Labor-HHS provision, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told reporters.
Trump signed the first package of fiscal 2019 appropriations legislation Friday, which contained the Energy-Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Legislative Branch bills. None of the measures attracted controversy after leaders in both chambers agreed to drop controversial policy provisions, as well as deny funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada. Top appropriators said the signing of the first package of spending bills shows their strategy of lumping bills together and dropping riders to win bipartisan support is working. "This is a successful framework that we should continue to follow to complete the remaining nine appropriations bills to ensure the government of the American people stays open for business," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Senate's top Democratic appropriator. Appropriators continue negotiations over a third spending minibus that would carry the Interior-EPA, Financial Services, Agriculture and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development bills. A deal is unlikely to be completed by Oct. 1, however, as lawmakers continue to haggle over various policy riders, both GOP and Democratic aides say. If there is no new funding in place, agencies such as EPA and Interior would need the CR to pass to avert a shutdown. Among the riders still being discussed are a proposal to direct some revenue from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Alaskan Native corporations, rollbacks of endangered species protections and California-related water provisions.
The budget should be free of any policy riders that seek to eliminate certain family planning and sexual health providers from accessing public funds. Such riders, including those that object to a provider’s scope of service beyond family planning and those that allow for exemptions for required services due to an entity’s religious or moral objections to that care, are to the detriment of patients and public health. For instance, the administration should abandon its repeated efforts, as evidenced by the president’s FY 2018 and 2019 budget plans, to bar “certain entities that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood” health centers from serving patients that access care through federally funded health programs. Blocking patients from obtaining publicly funded reproductive health services from Planned Parenthood and other similar providers would reduce access to high-quality care and widen existing inequities.
The other major success in this bill is that it rejects the inclusion of new policy riders designed to undermine environmental safeguards. Part of the reason why Congress has had such a difficult time passing funding bills is that even if they could agree on funding, House Republicans were insistent on using these must pass bills to change environmental protection policy, aka policy riders. These policies, which have no place in a spending bill, are widely supported so the House GOP had no chance of passing a standalone bill into law. Instead, they took funding bills hostage and were willing to shut down the government to get what they wanted. Thankfully Democrats were willing to stand up to most of these egregious and harmful demands, but the cost was often a budget process stuck in limbo. This year seemed like it would be more of the same with the House Republicans trying to move a handful of harmful, unrelated, controversial, and often radical policy changes. Yet thanks to a fear of a government shutdown just weeks from the midterm elections, Senate Republicans made a handshake deal with the Democrats to keep these riders off the bill. This change of heart, was a surprising but welcomed development.
The Supreme Court’s decision to give corporations the right under the First Amendment to spend unlimited funds from their corporate treasuries to support or attack candidates is troubling for several reasons, and investors concerned about the value of their investments and citizens concerned about the future of American democracy are looking to the SEC to take the action that so many investors have demanded and require disclosure of political spending. The rider blocking the SEC from making progress on this rulemaking was inappropriately included in the appropriations process, and the budget should be free of any partisan, poison pill policy riders. Disclosure of a corporation’s political spending is good for business and good for our democracy. Congress should not stop the SEC from finalizing this important disclosure rule.
Why is the process moving more swiftly this year? Three reasons. First, in February, Congress and the president reached a two-year budget deal that increased spending limits for defense and nondefense programs. Agreeing to the overall size of the federal pie early in the year gave the parties more time to negotiate how to divide it up. Second, the budget deal lifted caps imposed under the 2011 budget law by $85 billion and $68 billion, respectively, for defense and nondefense spending. A bigger pie made it easier to compromise. Third, Republican control of the House, Senate, and White House has generated new pressures on Republicans to reach deals with Democrats. At risk of losing their chamber majorities, Republicans want to deliver legislative wins before the November elections. Both parties’ leaders want to avoid shutting down any part of the government before Election Day. Convincing colleagues on both sides of the aisle to forgo attaching controversial policy riders to the spending bills was key. President Trump remains a wild card. He has threatened several times to veto bills unless Congress agrees to spend billions on a wall along the southwest border. But Democrats and even some Republicans oppose spending as much as Trump has asked for. Republicans have dodged the problem for now. They combined the defense bill — one of their major priorities — with the health and labor bill, which Democrats value, into a single legislative package. Then they added a stopgap measure to cover the remaining federal agencies, postponing a full fight about border wall funding until after the midterms. That means Trump cannot get funding for the border wall unless he is willing to veto the entire package, forcing the government to shut down. It is a risk Republicans bet the president will not take.