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"The lengthy list of policy riders included in pending appropriations bills represents Washington at its worst," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. "Stealthy, out-of-order maneuvers are used to force through unpopular legislative provisions, imposing enormous harm on the American public to benefit corporate donors." (Photo: Speaker John Boehner/flickr/cc)

Get Your Ideology Out of Federal Budget, 178 Groups Say to Congress

'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,' says Public Citizen

Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

Citing a lengthy list of "wildly inappropriate" provisions that have been attached to pending U.S. budget proposals, a coalition of 178 groups representing tens of millions of Americans is calling on President Barack Obama and Congress to oppose any federal appropriations bills that include "ideological" policy riders.

In a letter (pdf) sent Thursday to Obama and members of Congress, the organizations charge lawmakers with inserting controversial and unpopular measures—ones with "little or no connection to funding the government"—into must-pass legislation in order "to serve the narrow interests of particular industries at the expense of public health, safety, workers’ rights, financial security, science, and the environment."

The missive, which is signed by a wide range of groups including Greenpeace, NAACP, National Organization for Women, Public Citizen, and United Steelworkers, describes such riders as "the new earmarks," but notes they are even worse in that "they have vastly greater reach and consequence for the American people."

Many people are aware that the GOP is considering attaching a rider defunding Planned Parenthood to a government spending bill, despite the fact that the public opposes and Obama would veto such a measure. 

But there are many more examples, including proposals that would:

  • Prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from updating important air quality standards for ozone and roll back a recently finalized rule that protects clean water;
  • Roll back strong net neutrality rules and prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from enforcing rules that ensure internet openness and affordability;
  • Stop the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending;
  • Roll back financial regulations in areas ranging from protections against irresponsible mortgage lending to limits on excessive borrowing by large banks, to undermining the effectiveness of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB); and
  • Eliminate any funding for the Title X Family Planning Program, cutting the preventive care—including family planning services, well-woman exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and testing and treatments for sexually transmitted infections—that nearly 4.6 million people currently rely on.

"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."


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