Budget Deal Undermines Important Regulations

Dec. 16, 2011 

Budget Deal Undermines Important Regulations

Appropriation Provisions Threaten Worker Safety, Campaign Finance, Financial Reform Rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The deal reached Thursday on an omnibus appropriations package to keep the federal government funded for another year undermines important public health and safety regulations, Public Citizen said today.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the deal today and the Senate is expected to vote on it over the weekend. The package includes provisions that undermine worker safety, weaken the stability of the U.S. financial system and may weaken disclosure of election spending by government contractors.

One budget rider would delay indefinitely the Mine Safety and Health Administration from issuing a regulation to protect miners from black lung disease.

“Black lung disease kills 25 times more miners each year than explosions or other mining incidents,” said Justin Feldman, Public Citizen’s worker health and safety advocate. “A new rule to protect mine workers from black lung and silicosis has been 15 years in the making. To delay it further would be unconscionable. The mining industry must be betting that it can quash the rule by stalling it indefinitely.”

Another rider in the budget deal would weaken a proposed executive order from President Barack Obama that would require government contractors to disclose their political contributions to the public. The rider would block agencies from requiring disclosure until after a contract is awarded. This means that if a company seeks to trade campaign spending for a lucrative government contract, the public will not know about the spending until after the contract has been granted.

“Pay-to-play abuse is by far most pervasive when the cash-for-favors schemes stay out of the public’s eye,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist with Public Citizen. “When contractors can make campaign contributions and expenditures that are not subject to public disclosure, the contracting process is at dire risk of favoritism. But by keeping those contributions and expenditures secret from the public, this rider prevents us from judging whether contracts are being awarded based on merit or favoritism until it’s too late.”

Finally, with Wall Street continuing to run amok as evidenced by the tremendous loss of customer funds by MF Global, the omnibus measure cuts funding to two key financial regulators: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

“While the haircut at the SEC will challenge the agency’s ability to confront its massive new responsibilities under needed Dodd-Frank reform, the chain-saw slash of the CFTC budget – by one-third – inevitably will lead to further Wall Street abuses,” said Bartlett Naylor, financial policy advocate at Public Citizen. “Washington lawmakers beholden to Wall Street are leaving Main Street business vulnerable to abuse in the commodities markets.”

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.