Doing the Right Thing with Funding the Government

House Republicans’ obsession with larding must-pass funding bills with policy riders mainly aimed at rolling back environmental safeguards and stopping the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from doing its job of protecting public health seems to have taken a short break.  The House-passed funding bill for this year, H.R. 1, which had 19 anti-environmental riders, , provides a taste of the pro-polluter, anti-public health policies these Republicans have advocated.  This site has links to the riders offered since H.R. 1.  Fun fact: There have been more anti-environmental votes this year in the House than the Senate has had votes.

During July, House Republicans used the funding bill for the Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency as a “Christmas tree” to attach one anti-environmental, anti-public health rider after another.  Indeed, they offered SO many of these that the Republican leadership gave up on the bill because there was no end in sight.  Then they turned to the debt ceiling bill.  The public—both Democrats and Republicans—were disgusted with the Republicans’ repeated attempt to use must-pass legislation to promote their radical agendas at the cost of forcing the country into default.  

Has the feedback from constituents and Congress’s record low approval ratings forced the Tea Partiers to change their tune?

It is time for another must-pass bill.  For various reasons, neither house of Congress is anywhere near passing the 12 funding bills for the fiscal year that starts October 1, 2011, let alone conferencing with their counterpart in the other house to reach an agreement.  To get around this stalemate, Congress needs to pass another must-pass bill—a short-term agreement called a continuing resolution (CR)—to fund the government for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2011 until November 18, 2011.   Fortunately, both the House and Senate versions of the CR are, thus far, devoid of riders.

It’s a promising sign that this short-term continuing resolution is free of riders.  Indeed, using must-pass spending bills to promote an agenda that can’t get through Congress under regular order is irresponsible.  Clearly the disgust with the Republican brinksmanship is being heard, at least for this funding bill. Maybe they learned from their constituents during the August recess that shutting down the government to give polluters a free-pass, isn’t politic.

Another funding bill will be needed after November 18. Have they learned their lesson? Will they try again? Will the Senate stand up to them? Will the White House threaten vetoes? Stay tune.

Of course, controversy still exists around the continuing appropriations bill. The Senate bill is clean -- no riders and no extraneous issues.  The House bill sets a questionable precedent by requiring cuts in funding elsewhere to pay for disaster funding.  This offset for emergerncy funding is opposed by the White House and Democrats and even by the Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) whose district has recently suffered two disasters. More importantly for the environment and the economy the proposal to offset the needed funding for disasters is to cut $1.5 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. The Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program helps auto companies and their suppliers convert their domestic plants to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles and to create or maintain auto industry jobs. The Department of Energy has used approximately $5 billion of credit subsidies to provide $9.1 billion in loans to five companies, which created nearly 39,000 direct jobs and another 2,600 construction jobs in 11 states.  The projects would reduce gasoline use by more than 311 million gallons annually.  Using a must-passed bill which is needed to keep the government running and also to provide for the needs of flood victims, should not be a screen to attack a successful program that provides good green jobs and decreases our dependence on oil.

The hopeful signs of no riders on the continuing resolution does not mean the anti-environmental agenda is dead.  As our website shows, the Cantor anti-environmental agenda is scheduled to have floor votes starting this week and continuing until November.  But for the time, at least, the Republicans are not willing to shutdown the government to make their anti-environmental point.