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The American People Deserve a Clean Budget That Protects the Public 

The scandal over cutting Special Olympics funding and the subsequent walk back has been trending in the news for good reason: it shows the depths that the administration will shamelessly sink to in harming marginalized communities. President Trump may have since walked back the originally planned cuts, but that the proposal made it into the budget in the first place is telling. That’s far from the only example of abject cruelty in the Trump budget, however; for additional examples, look no further than the other provisions of the president’s proposed budget for FY2020. The proposed budget would make deep cuts to the social safety net and earned benefits, while funding a wasteful and racist wall at the border and slashing funds for environmental protections and other measures that protect Americans.

Here are some of the worst features of the Trump Budget:

  • Hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Americans’ earned benefits—chiefly, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security disability insurance—which millions of Americans rely on for their basic health and well-being;
  • Massive cuts in the student loan program, despite the crisis levels of debt students and recent graduates already face;
  • Deep decreases in funding for social programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Section 8 housing vouchers, Head Start, and other crucial services;
  • $8.6 billion in funding for the construction of a racist southern border wall that will imperil the natural habitat along the Rio Grande river and cost long-time families their homes, in addition to the billions of dollars the president recently chose to appropriate for the wall under the guise of a sham National Emergency, which Public Citizen is fighting in court on behalf of the Frontera Audubon Society and three plaintiffs among our members from Texas.

It is often said that a president’s budget is a “statement of priorities.” Frequently, the administration’s proposed budget is little more than a wish-list that will bear little resemblance to the ultimate funding package upon which Trump and Congress will (hopefully) agree in order to avoid another shutdown. Congress still needs to pass the actual appropriations bills, and in addition to advocating to oppose these types of dangerous proposed cuts to agency funding, we also need to ensure that the budget process is not hijacked for partisan purposes.  

All too often in recent years, Congress’ role in the budget process has been abused to enact dangerous, unpopular policies that harm the public. By inserting “poison pill” policy riders into must-pass appropriations bills, some members of Congress routinely push forward policies that would damage Americans’ health, wealth, and environment.

That’s why the Clean Budget Coalition is calling on Congress to pass a budget that does not abuse the budget process to roll back public protections. The Coalition’s demand is simple: no appropriations measures should move forward if they contain poison pill riders that go against the public interest.

Poison pill riders are unpopular and dangerous. The American people support policies that ensure social and economic justice, protect workplaces and the environment, promote access to justice and fair housing, protect consumers from corporate wrongdoing, protect human and civil rights including the rights of immigrants, and guarantee access to vital health care services including comprehensive reproductive healthcare. Our budget should reflect these priorities, and should certainly not include any measures that go against them. The Clean Budget Coalition calls for Congress to remove any poison pill riders that would undo any of these protections.

What the American people need is not a government budget filled with deep cuts to healthcare, badly needed social programs and retirement benefits. It’s not a racist, environmentally destructive wall. It’s also not a budget that is used to sneak bad policies through the congressional backdoor—policies that would never pass on their own due to their harmful nature. What Americans do need is a budget that recognizes and affirms the people’s right to a clean environment, comprehensive healthcare, and economic, civil, and social justice. Congress must act to ensure that, and not the cruel and shameful document put forth by the administration, is the kind of appropriations package that is ultimately agreed upon. And, they must stand strong with the American people to demand a clean budget, free from poison pill riders that harm the public interest.