Budget Agreement Is An Important Victory, But Legacy Riders are Disappointing

$425 Million in Election Security Funding Is Vital to Protect Our Democracy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The fiscal year 2020 spending bill that the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on today is an important victory, but has its caveats, Public Citizen said today. On the plus side, it includes $425 million in vital funding for election security and significant gains for gun violence research, child care grants, census administration and climate research.

However, the agreement retains several legacy riders left in from previous budget cycles, including provisions that stop major corporations from being required to disclose their political spending and that block rules clarifying nonprofit political activity that would reduce abuses by those willing to spend secret money in elections. One rider would give Big Pharma longer market-exclusivity for certain drugs and treatments, forcing consumers to wait years for affordable medicine. Another provision would allow two Senate leadership staff members to solicit and distribute campaign funds.

Here is reaction from several Public Citizen experts:

“This budget deal provides a critical funding boost for agencies throughout our government to protect our elections, health, safety, environment, homes and workplaces. While it is not completely clean of legacy policy riders, a full-year deal is imperative for keeping programs running that Americans rely on. Now, it is critical that the Senate pass this spending package without delay to avoid a government shutdown.”

– Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs

“It is unacceptable that lawmakers had to swallow poison pills meant to protect wealthy special interests and their secret spending in politics in order to fund critical government programs. In the decade since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Citizens United, political spending has skyrocketed – much of it in the shadows. We should not have to make a choice between transparency and funding the government.”

– Rachel Curley, democracy associate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division

“This election security funding is a victory for the American people. Facing constant attempts by foreign powers to influence our elections, we are thrilled that Congress has recognized its ongoing responsibility to help states and localities protect our democracy.

But this fight is not over. We must ensure that as election hackers’ tactics continue to evolve, we will fight back and protect our democratic institutions. We will continue to press decision-makers at the state and local level to use this funding wisely. In the future, Congress should fund election security more consistently and pass comprehensive election security reform.”

– Aquene Freechild, co-director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign