Must-Pass Spending Bill No Place for Controversial Riders

Washington DC, capital city of the United States. National Capitol building.
Washington DC, capital city of the United States. National Capitol building.

Congress has decided on overall funding levels for a long-term spending bill, but the budget drama in Washington is far from over. As elected officials and their staff hash out the details of the bill, critical issues remain unresolved as we approach December 11, the day that their last deal runs out.

While House Democrats have made it clear that they want to pass a clean funding bill free of policy riders, House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that the bill will “have to” include riders, setting the stage for a highly contentious budget battle and threatening a government shutdown.

The parade of outrageous riders that have been attached to appropriations bills so far reflects just how far Republicans will go in trying to hold a must-pass spending bill hostage to unpopular, ideological measures. There have been riders proposed to roll back clean water protections and net neutrality rules, to defund Planned Parenthood, to block a new rule protecting workers from toxic dust, and to stand in the way of increased disclosure of corporate political spending. This week some Republican House members are calling for riders to stop Syrian refugees fleeing terrible violence - who are already put through an extensive vetting process -- from entering our country.

No, Speaker Ryan, the final spending bill does not “have to” include riders that undermine human rights, harm our health, and weaken our democracy. In fact, it absolutely shouldn’t.

These controversial policy proposals with such profound consequences for the American people shouldn’t be hidden within a must-pass bill; they should be debated separately (and, in my opinion, promptly defeated). Each of these riders, if signed into law, would amount to a major policy shift with real implications for Americans’ lives. What’s more, the GOP knows President Obama will not sign a bill that includes these poison pills, and insisting on their inclusion amounts to an undemocratic temper tantrum that risks a government shutdown.

Americans are deeply frustrated with a national political landscape characterized by gridlock and partisan posturing. A new Gallup poll shows that just one in ten Americans approve of how Congress is doing. Instead of pandering to extreme members of the GOP base, Congress should prove that it can still do its job by passing a clean spending bill with no ideological riders.