Policy Riders Threaten Vital Public Safeguards, Hijack Budget Process

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Policy Riders Threaten Vital Public Safeguards, Hijack Budget Process

178 Groups Call on President and Congress to Oppose Spending Bills With Policy Riders

WASHINGTON - A coalition of 178 groups – representing tens of millions of Americans – is urging President Barack Obama and all 535 members of Congress to oppose any federal appropriations bill that contains inappropriate and ideological policy riders.

These riders would jeopardize policies that restrain Wall Street abuses; guarantee clean air, food and water; ensure safe consumer products and continued access to vital health care services; keep homes and workplaces safe; prevent consumer rip-offs; and hold big corporations accountable for wrongdoing, the groups said in a letter (PDF) sent today.

The policy riders being tacked on to the budget bills have little or no connection to funding the government and in many cases are both highly controversial and unpopular. That is why lawmakers are attempting to insert them into must-pass legislation; it is their best chance of enacting the measures into law.

“These inappropriate riders are being inserted to advance the priorities of special interest donors and supporters. They have become the ‘new earmarks,’ but they are actually far worse than the old earmarks, because they have vastly greater reach and consequence for the American people. Some Members of Congress have even gone so far as to say they are willing to shut down the entire government over outrageous policy riders,” the letter reads.

“The lengthy list of policy riders included in pending appropriations bills represents Washington at its worst. Stealthy, out-of-order maneuvers are used to force through unpopular legislative provisions, imposing enormous harm on the American public to benefit corporate donors,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

Inappropriate policy riders that have been attached to the 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 financial advice on their retirement savings;
  • 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.

“With hundreds of outrageous policy riders, the 2016 appropriations bills look more like a Christmas wish list for big business than a serious federal budget,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “These riders are designed to do one thing: hijack the budget process to roll back basic protections for Main Street. The White House and members of Congress should oppose any spending bills that contain these reckless and dangerous provisions.”

Read the letter (PDF).

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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