June 21, 2018

Forty Senators Push Senate Appropriations Leaders to Reject Dangerous Environmental Riders

Destructive policy provisions slipped into spending bills impede annual appropriations process would harm public health and the environment, Senators write

Washington, DC – Today, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) led 40 Senators in urging the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee to keep destructive anti-environmental provisions – or “riders” – out of this year’s appropriations bills. Republicans have frequently attempted to slip environmental riders into spending bills in recent years, leading to gridlock in the annual appropriations process and risking the health and safety of the American people. The Senators’ letter, supported by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), signals there is sufficient opposition to prevent appropriations bills that include anti-environmental riders from passing the Senate.

“Appropriations bills should be about investing in our priorities – not jamming in unrelated riders that would gut protections for our clean air, clean water, and public health,” Senator Udall said. “As the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, I’m proud that we came together in a bipartisan way to produce a strong funding bill for our public lands and the environment that is free of any new toxic riders. And I thank Senators Leahy and Shelby for their commitment to a smooth and productive appropriations process.”

“We’ve seen far too much brinksmanship and gridlock this Congress to be risking an appropriations standstill over pointless anti-environmental riders,” said Senator Whitehouse. “The bipartisan success of recent spending measures has come because both sides stand down on ‘poison-pill’ riders. Thank you to Senators Schumer and Leahy for their support, and to Senator Shelby for signaling that spending bills shouldn’t come ‘load[ed] up’ with controversial riders.”

“We need to keep our focus on funding programs that protect our clean water, clean air and healthy lands,” said Senator Cardin. “Appropriations bills should not be loaded with hyperpartisan policy riders that would gut our nation’s environmental laws. Major policy decisions that impact our economy and our environment deserve a full debate rather than getting hastily tacked onto a spending bill.”

Joining Whitehouse, Udall, and Cardin in signing the letter to Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice Chairman Leahy are Senators Margaret Hassan (D-NH), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Angus King (I-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

Appropriations riders typically do not affect federal spending. Instead, they aim to make changes to laws that would not withstand the scrutiny of regular congressional debate and would not advance without being attached to must-pass measures like appropriations bills. In recent years, Republicans have attempted to strip away a range of important environmental protections using appropriations riders, including safeguards for our air, water, and federal lands. This has slowed regular order in Congress and threatened the shutdown of the federal government.

Full text of the letter is below. A PDF copy is available here.

Dear Chairman Shelby and Vice Chairman Leahy:
Thank you for your work on FY 2019 appropriations bills. We are grateful that the FY 2018 omnibus spending bill was largely free of unrelated policy riders that would have had deleterious consequences for public health and the environment. As you know, the inclusion of such unrelated policy riders has undermined the Senate’s ability over the years to pass appropriations bills. We appreciate Chairman Shelby’s recent statements that we need to “go to regular order” and “not load the bills up with riders.” We stand by the Chairman’s remarks that Members should demonstrate “discipline to not offer amendments just to cripple the bill.” To help maintain regular order and to ensure bipartisan support, we urge you to keep the FY 2019 appropriations bills free of controversial anti-environmental policy riders.