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Media Alert: Lawmakers Should Reject Ryan’s Poison Pill Riders

Dec. 2, 2015

Media Alert: Lawmakers Should Reject Ryan’s Poison Pill Riders

The White House, Congressional Democrats and 200 Groups Oppose Policy Riders in Speaker Ryan’s Proposed Spending Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Late Tuesday, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sent House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a proposed omnibus government spending package for fiscal year 2016 that includes dozens of poison pill policy riders, according to media reports. Lawmakers should reject the riders, Public Citizen said today.

Lawmakers must write a final omnibus spending bill before Dec. 11 that can win approval from the White House and both chambers of Congress, or we will face a government shutdown.

The riders are little more than special favors for ideological extremists and sweetheart deals for big corporations. Riders that have been proposed in recent weeks would deny women access to the health care provider of their choice; block safeguards that protect our homes, pocketbooks and workplaces; lower standards that keep our food, air, land and water safe; and much more.

“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 showing they aren’t looking out for regular Americans.”

As The New York Times editorial board wrote today, “Republicans in the House and Senate appear divided, with the House’s far-right caucus eager for a shutdown if it doesn’t get its way and the Senate leadership desperate to avoid one for fear it would hurt its party’s electoral prospects in 2016. That is an opening for Mr. Obama to do the right thing with harmful riders: Just say no.”

Inappropriate policy riders that have been attached to fiscal year 2016 funding bills would:

  • Prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from updating important air quality standards for ozone and roll back a recently finalized rule that protects clean water;
  • Block a U.S. Department of Labor rule that would ensure Americans are getting sound advice on their retirement plans;
  • Stop the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending;
  • Prevent the White House from requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending and from cracking down on contractors that violate workplace laws;
  • Block rules that limit the number of hours truckers are permitted to work without an adequate rest break, despite safety concerns that trucker fatigue causes serious crashes;
  • Roll back strong net neutrality rules and prevent the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from enforcing rules that ensure Internet openness and affordability.
  • Undo important rules that restrict coordination between candidates for office and political parties.

These are just a few of the dozens of inappropriate ideological riders Republican lawmakers have added to appropriations bills. The riders would undo or halt critical protections for middle-class workers, consumers and families.

American voters didn’t ask for this. Polling shows that voters in both partie 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 early October, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) as well as representatives from the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the League of Conservation Voters, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Public Citizen and the Service Employees International Union held a telephone press conference calling on Congress to pass a clean spending bill with no ideological policy riders.

In late 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.