With a government shutdown looming if Republicans and Democrats can’t reach an agreement on a spending bill by April 8, budget negotiations are at a critical point. Actions over the next week or so will determine whether environmental protections and programs are needlessly sacrificed to the Tea Party ideological agenda, or whether the public can still count on the safeguards it has rightly come to rely on.
At issue are not only the draconian spending cuts the House conservatives rammed through in their version of the spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1), but also the 19 anti-environment riders– provisions that do not save the government a single cent, but that block environmental safeguards.
This is the time when the public and public officials need to be taking a clear, vocal, public stand for environmental protection to demonstrate that the White House has backing for its resolve to eliminate the riders. We can be sure that the Tea Party enthusiasts will be making their voices heard in the other direction.
That’s why it was such a positive sign when 19 Democratic Senators, including members of the Senate leadership, released a letter to President Obama today calling for “a reasonable budget with no harmful riders that will enable EPA to maintain the environmental safeguards that have protected the American people for 40 years.” In another key move, Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chair Chuck Schumer of New York has said in a television interview and in a tweet that the Senate would reject riders that would hobble the Environmental Protection Agency.
More Members of Congress should be this outspoken about the riders. These are bad policies that would weaken environmental protections, and they have no business being part of a game of “chicken” on the spending bill needed to keep the government running for the last six months of this year.