It seemed like somebody was trying to pull an early April Fool's prank yesterday. The rumors flying from the Hill were that President Obama was cooking up deal with Republicans on the budget that might allow the inclusion of unrelated policy provisions. These so-called riders are aimed at eliminating a number of GOP pet peeves -- including the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do its job. David Goldston, NRDC’s director of governmental affairs, has written in-depth about the harm that the GOP riders will do -- see his blog postings here and here. Most notably, the Republicans are out to stop EPA from updating and enforcing pollution standards that ensure we have clean air to breathe.
Let's be clear: Riders have no place on a budget bill and are nothing more than an attempt by extremist in Congress who prefer sneak attacks on policies they hate so they can avoid open debate on the merits of the issues. They know that Americans won't sit idly by while the Clean Air Act and other environmental safeguards are ripped to shreds, leaving us at risk while corporate polluters laugh all the way to the bank.
And that's why it was so alarming yesterday to even think that our president, who thus far has been a steadfast defender of EPA's ability to protect our heath, would cave to the cynical assault by some in Congress. In her blog, NRDC President Frances Beinecke calls Obama’s choice on the riders “a leadership moment” for all Americans.
Reports now say the president never seriously considered accepting the harmful riders on a budget bill. In fact, White House spokesman Clark Stevens has stated that President Obama remains opposed to all riders, including the anti-environmental ones. Just to be clear about that, today over a dozen leading environmental groups sent a letter to President Obama urging him to be prepared to veto any bill that includes such riders. The letter reads in part:
We appreciate today’s statement in opposition to anti-environmental riders. As you continue to negotiate the parameters of a Continuing Resolution for fiscal year 2011 we urge you to stand up to the special interests like Big Oil and other polluters and publicly reject any legislative riders that would constitute a backdoor attempt to block, weaken or delay the EPA’s ability to protect public health and reduce carbon and other pollution under the Clean Air Act or undermine the quality of our air, land water and wildlife.
As the Republican Leadership uses the federal budget process and the threat of a government shutdown to enact their extreme agenda, the American people are depending on you to prevent dangerous policies that undermine public health and other environmental protections. The Administration has taken the right stand in explicitly stating its opposition to anti-environmental riders on the Continuing Resolution. We urge you to continue working to oppose these dangerous policies, and if needed, veto any budget bill that includes them.
Environmental groups aren’t the only ones who don’t like these riders.
- A broad coalition of 139 different groups – ranging from the Children’s Dental Health Project to the Economic Policy Institute – also have sent a letter to President Obama asking him to reject all policy riders in the budget legislation.
- The public policy group Center for American Progress, citing figures from the Congressional Budget Office, has said these riders would increase the deficit by billions of dollars – having the exact opposite effect of what Congress says it is trying to do.
- More than 50 House Democrats have sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner imploring him to not include anti-environmental policy riders in the budget legislation because they would “significantly jeopardize” health and environmental protections in American communities.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reiterated that Democrats would not accept any provisions in House GOP-passed spending legislation that block EPA from implementing various pollution rules.
No matter how you slice it, when it comes to the federal budget, it’s crystal clear: No riders, now way.