By Lisa Gilbert and David Rosen
Appropriators in the U.S. Senate have their work cut out for them and hardly a moment to spare, at least if they want to be able to tell voters back home that they did their jobs. And as in years past, the debate over poison pill riders is leading to the fall funding crunch.
In early August, Congress passed a bipartisan two-year budget agreement lifting federal spending caps. This hard-fought agreement also included a commitment to set aside poison pill riders, measures sneaked into spending bills that have nothing to do with funding our government and harm the public.
Before going on recess in August, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives already had passed 10 out of the 12 spending bills and removed many legacy riders from those bills. Legacy riders are ideological poison pills that were added in past budget cycles and are carried forward from one budget cycle to the next year after year.
Among the legacy riders the House removed were measures that blocked commonsense campaign finance rules, thwarted key public health safeguards and rolled back important environmental protections.
When Congress returned in September, Senate appropriators failed to make much progress for two reasons, both of which were at odds with the August budget agreement both parties ostensibly supported.
First, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) raided $3.6 billion in funding that they promised would go toward military families, job training, education and public health to pay for President Donald Trump’s racist and ineffective border wall and child detention centers.
Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, they threatened to put back the legacy poison pills that the House already removed.
So to give Senate Republicans more time to do the job that they should have finished in September, Congress passed a continuing resolution, extending current funding levels through Nov. 21. Now Republicans need to stick to their agreements.
The Clean Budget Coalition and our allies on Capitol Hill are demanding that Senate Republicans stop playing political games with the appropriations process, fund programs that protect our communities at the levels they promised in August and remove the harmful legacy riders that do not belong.
We hope senators will not insist on keeping harmful policies that the House already voted to remove. If they do, they’ll be throwing a wrench in the process amid yet another continuing resolution that kicks this debate to December. More delays mean more uncertainty for federal agencies that not only need additional funding but need to know what funding levels they can expect.
Removing the harmful legacy riders that never belonged in the first place – and certainly don’t belong now – would honor the promise lawmakers made in August and finally get the job done.