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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The day before the White House is expected to release its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, a coalition of more than 100 groups, including U.S. PIRG, sent a letter calling on President Barack Obama and all 535 members of Congress to oppose any federal appropriations bill that contains ideological policy riders.
Policy riders are extraneous provisions added to federal spending legislation that have little or nothing to do with funding the government. Most of them are little more than sweetheart deals for big corporations and special favors for ideological extremists – and could not become law on their own merits – so lawmakers sneak them into must-pass spending bills to avoid a real debate. Policy riders are deeply controversial with voters in both parties, harmful to working families and small businesses, and have no place in the appropriations process.
“Ideological riders are measures that the public opposes, and that the President would likely veto as standalone legislation,” the letter reads. “The American people support policies to restrain Wall Street abuses and ensure safe and healthy food and products, to protect our air, land, water and wildlife, to ensure safe and fair workplaces, to prevent consumer rip-offs and corporate wrongdoing, to create fair rules of the road for our campaign finance system, to provide access to justice, and to ensure continued access to vital health care services.” Riders threaten to block or repeal these protections.
Last year, hundreds of riders were proposed for inclusion in the omnibus spending legislation, and in this year’s budget process, some members of Congress already have started to insist on them. Even though the congressional leadership appears determined to return to regular order by passing 12 smaller spending bills instead of a last-minute omnibus, the threat of riders remains.
Among the concerns that the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) has are rollbacks to Wall Street Reform and roadblocks to campaign finance reform. “Policy riders that were defeated last December and can’t pass on their own are back like zombies. They would hamstring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which keeps Wall Street and other financial interests in check,” said Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG’s Consumer Program Advocate. “Congress should pass clean spending bills without riders that would further undermine our democracy in favor of special interest groups and mega-donors,” said Dan Smith, Democracy Campaign Director for U.S. PIRG.
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