Obama Shouldn’t Let Republicans Dismantle His Legacy of Protecting the Public on His Last Watch

More Than 750 Poison Pill Policy Riders Must Be Removed From the Final Budget Package

EDITORIAL BOARD ALERT | Nov. 14, 2016

Contact: Lisa Gilbert, lgilbert@citizen.org, (202) 454-5188
David Rosen, drosen@citizen.org, (202) 588-7742

At midnight on Dec. 9, funding for the current fiscal year will run out. If Congress fails to act before then, the federal government will shut down until funding is restored. To avoid the disruptive effects of a shutdown, Congress must pass clean appropriations bills that fund our government for the year ahead before the end of the year. While lawmakers are still debating if they will move a continuing resolution or try to do any regular order appropriations, two major obstacles stand in the way of a final budget: the threat of continued delay and poison pill policy riders.

Instead of finishing the appropriations process this year as they repeatedly promised, some Republican lawmakers want to postpone the debate over funding levels until next year. This is unacceptable. Departments and agencies throughout our government are counting on Congress to set funding levels, so that they can set appropriate budgets for the year ahead. It is dereliction of duty to pass the buck to the next administration and Congress, requiring them to do the job that the current lawmakers were elected to do. From a Republican perspective, they have good reason to clear the decks: to allow the new administration and Congress to start with a clean slate.

And then there is the matter of riders. Conservative lawmakers have attached more than 750 poison pill policy riders to funding legislation. Some would roll back Wall Street reform; some would block clean air and clean water protections; others would attack women’s health care and fundamental civil rights. These provisions have nothing to do with funding the government and have no place in the appropriations process.

These riders pose a direct threat to President Barack Obama’s legacy. Beginning in January, Donald Trump’s administration and the new Republican Congress will try to undo many of the current president’s accomplishments, but Obama should not allow them to do so on his last watch. In the final days of his administration, Obama should not surrender to those who would endanger the American workers, consumers and families that he has long championed.

Please call on President Obama to continue to lead the fight against hundreds of harmful riders that would destroy his legacy and harm the very people he has fought so hard to protect.

At the beginning of the year, Republicans in both chambers of Congress promised to move appropriations legislation through regular order. Had they kept their word, each chamber would have passed 12 separate appropriations bills by September. But instead of remaining focused on funding levels, Republicans have treated this must-pass legislation as an opportunity to ram through amendments that grant special favors to big businesses and ideological extremists.

Many of these provisions attack Obama’s major accomplishments: laws, executive orders and regulatory protections that he, members of his administration and his supporters fought hard to bring to fruition. Among them, riders attached to appropriations legislation would:

  • Block the overtime rule that increases pay for millions of hardworking Americans;
  • Block a rule to hold government contractors accountable for serious labor law violations;
  • Block all financial reform regulations that would hold Wall Street accountable;
  • Halt executive action to require federal contractors to disclose their political spending;
  • Allow financial advisers to continue providing conflicted and misleading advice to American workers saving for retirement;
  • Block the Net Neutrality rule, which keeps the Internet a level playing field;
  • Weaken the Clean Air Act and block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which is designed to reduce pollution from power plants;
  • Block the Clean Water Rule that protects drinking water for one-third of Americans; and
  • Block a rule that protects more than two million workers from deadly silica dust.

There are far too many riders to name, and they all merit strong opposition. Lawmakers backing these measures are well aware that their proposals have little public support. So they are sneaking them into appropriations bills as riders, bypassing the democratic process and avoiding a public debate.

As is so often the case with political dangers that lurk in the shadows, sunshine is the best disinfectant. In 2015, the media attention given to controversial appropriations riders led to a public outcry that ultimately stopped the vast majority of harmful riders that were proposed for inclusion in the 2016 omnibus. This year, the threat from riders has returned with a vengeance.

In March, five top U.S. senators signed a letter (PDF) rejecting poison pill riders. In April, 172 members of the U.S. House of Representatives called on the leadership to pass a clean budget. In May, U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called on Congress to remove the harmful policy riders from the process.

And in November, 260 groups spanning the progressive coalition circulated a letter urging Congress and the president to reject the hundreds of riders and finish the appropriations process this year. The White House has already signaled its disapproval of riders. But strong White House leadership in the weeks ahead will be key to stopping them.

Please call on the White House to lead the fight against riders. To speak with an expert, please contact any of the individuals listed above.

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