Congress Shouldn’t Fill This Prescription: Spending Bill Policy Riders Are Poison Pills

Coalition Delivers Strong Message to Congress: ‘No Riders in the Spending Bill’

Dec. 11, 2015

Contact: David Rosen,, (202) 588-7742
Becky Levin,, (202) 429-1184
Lisa Gilbert,, (202) 454-5188

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “WARNING: Policy riders are known hazards to public health and safety. Harmful side effects may include sickness due to lack of health care for women; injury from weak consumer and worker protections; nausea from polluted air, water and food; spasms of corruption from money in politics; depression caused by Wall Street recklessness; and pain for vulnerable communities.”

That was the message on the label of an empty amber vial resembling a prescription drug bottle. The vial was in a package that members of the Clean Budget Coalition – nearly 200 groups opposed to policy riders in the federal spending bill – hand delivered today to all 535 members of Congress. The message: Don’t include any policy riders in the spending bill.

The package also contained a mock prescription note “signed” by Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) with a list of several riders rumored to be included in the spending package proposed by congressional Republicans. Lawmakers must write a final omnibus spending bill before Dec. 16 that can win approval from the White House and both chambers of Congress, or there will be a government shutdown.

“Riders are unpopular and controversial with voters in both parties, and have no place in the appropriations process,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “This is Washington’s deep corruption at its worst. Stealthy, out-of-order maneuvers are being used to force through provisions that would impose enormous harm on the American public to benefit corporate donors. Republicans in Congress are trying to avoid a real debate and in the process aren’t looking out for regular Americans.”

“America’s families have been working hard all year, and they deserve investments in public services that will help them find and keep good jobs, educate their children, ensure public health and safety, and achieve the American dream,” said Scott Frey, director of federal government affairs at ASCME. “It’s not fair for Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to write a prescription for a must-pass, year-end funding bill filled with poison pills. We strongly urge Congress not to fill this dangerous prescription and instead pass a clean funding bill with no riders.”

American voters didn’t ask for this. Polling shows that voters in both parties overwhelmingly support policies that restrain Wall Street abuses, ensure safe and healthy food and products, provide for clean air and water, keep workplaces safe, prevent consumer rip-offs, punish corporate wrongdoing and ensure continued access to vital health care services.

In September, a coalition of nearly 180 groups (now nearly 200 groups) – representing tens of millions of Americans – sent a letter (PDF) to President Barack Obama and all 535 members of Congress urging them to oppose any federal appropriations bill that contains inappropriate and ideological policy riders. “These are measures that the public opposes, and the President would likely veto as standalone legislation,” the letter said.

In October, the White House issued a statement of administration policy (PDF) saying, “The Administration urges the Congress to pass this bipartisan agreement and looks forward to working with the Congress to enact responsible, full year FY 2016 appropriations – without ideological riders – based on this agreement in order to continue growing the Nation’s economy and creating jobs.”

In November, 165 members of the U.S. House of Representatives – led by U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) – signed a letter (PDF) urging the House leadership to end the divisive brinkmanship of recent years and bring to the floor a clean spending bill without any riders.


Images of the No Riders Poison Pill Package

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Riders Prescription

No Riders Package 2

No Riders Package 1