The omnibus budget bill has just passed the House and is now on its way to the Senate, with a Friday deadline for passage. Early reporting on the massive bill indicates that while some of the worst proposals appear to have been removed, many others that impact environmental protections, the Mueller investigation, campaign finance, and dark money may still be included. Learn more about these “poison pill” riders, and then call and email your MoC to demand their removal.
Congress is working feverishly to pass an omnibus (full government) spending bill that will fund the government through September. Following months of kicking the can down the road with continuing resolutions, the deadline for passing a budget is now March 23. Failing to pass a budget by that deadline will result in another government shutdown. Apart from the budget proposals themselves, Republicans have introduced hundreds of “poison pill” budget riders that could be included in the bill. These are measures that could never have passed on their own, but would have an enormous impact on environmental protections, campaign finance, the Mueller investigation, programs that help the poor, and much more.
Update 3/21: Congressional leaders have agreed to a $1.3 trillion draft budget, which is soon to be released. While it appears that some of the truly terrible riders we were tracking have been removed, those listed below may still be included. Please call and/or write to your MoC today to demand their removal!
Update 3/22: The House narrowly passed its version of the omnibus bill. What we do know: the bill did not include a DACA fix, protections for the Mueller Investigation, or the ACA stabilization measures that Susan Collins requested in exchange for her approve of the Tax Scam bill. The bill is now headed to the Senate.
The EPA: While the White House’s proposal to slash the EPA’s budget by 34% is not included in this omnibus draft, questions remain about other plans to dismantle EPA programs. Trump’s budget called for dismantling the Clean Power Plan (limits carbon pollution from power plants) and prohibiting implementation of the EPA’s stringent ozone standard. Another rider would make it possible for the Administration to repeal the Clean Water Rule without being subject to public and legal scrutiny.
National Parks & Federal Land: Trump’s proposed 16% cut to the Department of the Interior’s budget would sell out public lands and severely undermine the booming outdoor recreation economy. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is designed to protect national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other protected sites, would lose 92 percent of its budget. Another rider would block implementation of the Interior Department’s Obama-era rule prohibiting gas flaring and methane venting on federal land, despite the rule being upheld in court.
Endangered Species: Some legislators in the House have sought to downsize the Endangered Species Act, including eliminating federal protection of animals such as the sage grouse and the gray wolf. Others may try to insert riders that invalidate rules that protect bears and other carnivores in Alaska by allowing controversial hunting techniques, like shooting animals in their dens.
And More: In all, there are more than 80 anti-environment riders – against federal lands, protected species, and safeguards to our health. Read about them here and here. If you can’t decide or feel overwhelmed, call and ask our members of Congress to oppose any cuts to the EPA or any policies that would harm our environment or our health.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE AND DARK MONEY
The Johnson Amendment: Evangelical leaders have been clamoring under Trump for action to roll back the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and other nonprofits from donating to and promoting political campaigns. Republican legislators are likely to make another attempt to repeal it with a rider.
Mega Donors: Republican senators have proposed a measure that would relax rules affecting secret and wealthy donors and increase the amount of cash that political parties could spend on candidates, making it easier for mega-donors to get around the current limits on direct donations to candidates.
RIDERS TARGETING THE POOR, PEOPLE OF COLOR, AND IMMIGRANTS
2020 Census: The Trump administration wants to tie 2020 census funding to a requirement that it include questions of citizenship and immigration status. These kinds of questions could cause many to refuse to participate in the study, which would skew population counts (and congressional seats) in favor of Republicans.
Equal Employment Protections: At a time when sexual discrimination and harassment claims are surging, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission continues to shrink, and faces a massive backlog of cases that often take years to resolve.
Rental Assistance: The Trump administration recently announced plans to raise rents by up to $1,800 a year on the poorest households receiving federal rental assistance. Almost all of these renters have annual incomes of less than $7,000. These 1.7 million people (including nearly 1 million children) will face severe risk of becoming homeless.
Access to Justice: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to close down the Office for Access to Justice, which is dedicated to making legal aid accessible to all citizens.
Last summer, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) introduced a budget amendment that would put a time limit on the special counsel’s Russia investigation, and prevent Robert Mueller from probing “matters occurring before June 2015.”
Trump has asked for a rider to be inserted into the Department of Homeland Security’s budget that would allow him to send Secret Service agents to polling places, a vast expansion of executive authority. The legislation already cleared the House of Representatives with bipartisan support.
Update 3/21: The omnibus draft includes $1.57 billion for “physical barriers and technology,” but most of that is allocated to technology. Only $641 million can be used for fences and levees, and none of those funds could be used to build a concrete wall. This is an improvement over Trump’s budget proposal, which called for a $3 billion downpayment on a physical barrier along the US-Mexico border. The draft bill also rejects a Trump administration request for more immigration enforcement officers and an increase in funding for detention facilities.
RIDERS WE WANT TO SUPPORT
2018 Elections and Cyberwarfare: The omnibus budget draft adds another $307 million on top of the president’s budget request for the F.B.I’s work to secure the 2018 U.S. elections and fight Russian cyberattacks. An additional $380 million will go to states to help them protect their voting systems.
DACA FIX: Since this is a must-pass bill, it is a good time to encourage inclusion of a DACA extension or fix. Encourage your MoC to get this done.
Health Care: Republican leaders are looking for a way to stabilize ObamaCare’s health insurance markets by restoring funding canceled by the White House. One of the bills would provide two years of government subsidies for insurance companies who treat low-income patients. Susan Collins has proposed creating a high-risk insurance pools for those with high medical costs. Another proposal would require drug companies cover a larger portion of the “doughnut hole,” a gap in drug coverage for Medicare Part D beneficiaries.
Gun Violence Prevention: There are indicators that some Republican legislators may finally be willing to reverse the Dickey Amendment, a 22-year-old restriction on how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can fund gun-related research. Many are also pushing to add bipartisan legislation to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for gun buyers