Why These Riders are so Important
As the days proceed towards a government shutdown, the principal negotiators continue to battle over something that few Americans have heard much about. This looming government shutdown, if it occurs, will not be about the final amount of the budget cuts in the Continuing Resolution (CR). Rather, the most contentious parts of the negotiation are over a series of Policy Riders that involve not only money, but some strong ideological issues.
President Obama has been adamantly opposed to these riders, saying that these riders represent ideology and should be treated in separate bills to be voted upon separately in the House and Senate. Obama, of course, knows that each of these riders would be passed in the House but would fail in the Senate. Republicans know that the only leverage they have is to keep the riders in a must pass budget bill to keep the government running. So we have this very difficult negotiation between the Republicans, represented by Speaker Boehner and the Democrats represented by Senate Majority Leader Reid and President Obama.
I believe that Obama is wrong about the riders being all about ideology and not about spending. Most of these riders do have an impact on overall spending, and more importantly the kind of spending done by the government. Do we want our government funding abortions with taxpayer money? How about our government funding foreign abortions, a terrible combination of taxpayer money being used for foreign aid directed at killing unborn human beings? I think the answer to both questions is no, and if presented to the American people that way, they would support these riders in the HR1 CR House bill.
Just What Are Riders and What Are Some of the Riders in HR1
Riders are additional provisions annexed to a legislative bill under the consideration, often having little connection with the subject matter of the bill. Riders are usually created as a tactic to pass a controversial provision which would not pass as its own bill, or as controversial provision attached to a bill not to be passed itself but to prevent the bill from being passed.
There are a large number of riders in the HR1 CR, which is one of the reasons the budget negotiations are taking so long. Each one needs to be reviewed by all of the parties, and then presumably there is a discussion to either leave the rider as-is, modify it or eliminate it.
Here are some of the most contentious riders in HR1 under consideration:
- Prohibits funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program.
- Prohibits funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program.
- Prohibits funding for the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act.
- Prohibits funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program or the State Energy Program.
- Prohibits funding for various environmental projects in California.
- Prohibits funding for a climate change czar in the White House.
- Prohibits funding for EPA efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.
- Prohibits funding for the EPA to change a rule regulating water.
- Prohibits funds for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
- Prohibits funds for the EPA to implement regulations to designate coal ash reside as hazardous waste.
- Prohibits funding for the IRS to implement health care reform.
- Prohibits funds for a White House Director of Health Care reform.
- Prohibits the District of Columbia from using its own, non-federal funds to pay for abortions beyond the very limited circumstances in which federal funds are currently available (in circumstances of rape or incest and to save the life of a pregnant woman).
- Prohibits funding for needle-exchange programs.
- Prohibits funding for sections of the Public Health Service Act.
- Prohibits funds to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., or any of its affiliates.
- Prohibits funds to pay any employee, officer or contractor to implement the provisions of the health care reform law.
- Strips funding for any provision of the health care reform law.
- Prohibits funding for the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, UN Population Fund, or for foreign NGOs that use their own non-U.S. funds to provide abortion services.
There are many more riders in this HR1 Bill. You can see the complete list of HR1 Policy Riders here. Most of these riders are opposed by just about every Democrat. Most Republicans support all of the riders.
If we are to avoid a government shutdown on April 8, the Republicans will need to give up most of these riders, because that’s what this fight is about. I hope that John Boehner and the Republicans stand firm and keep most of the riders in this bill. This is their chance to make a significant and real attempt to reduce the size of the federal government and to eliminate many current onerous regulations.
If there is a long government shutdown, it will result in some difficulty and hardship for many people. Understanding the number and scope of these riders may provide more of an understanding to all parties just what this fight is all about. Its not just about a few $ Billion here or there.
Update: Note that HR1 is not the same as the short term CR passed by the House on Apr. 7, 2011 and which funds the government for one week and the Defense Dept. for the remainder of fiscal 2011.