June 26, 2017

Senators Call for Spending Bills Free of Dangerous Environmental Riders

‘Such riders [have] undermined the Senate’s ability to pass appropriations bills in the past’

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Tom Udall (D-NM) led a group of 39 Senators in urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to avoid unnecessary gridlock by drafting Fiscal Year 2018 federal spending bills free of controversial environmental policy provisions.  In recent years, Republicans in Congress have attempted on numerous occasions to include so-called “riders” in important spending bills that would compromise critical public health and environmental protections.  Those riders have contributed to increased budget brinksmanship and a breakdown in the annual appropriations process.  This 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. 

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

Appropriations riders typically do not affect federal spending.  Instead, they aim to make changes to law 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.

Text of the Senators’ letter is below.  A PDF copy is available here.

June 26, 2017

Dear Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairman Leahy,

Thank you for your work to complete the FY 2018 appropriations bills.  We are grateful that the FY 2017 omnibus spending bill was largely free of unrelated policy riders that would have compromised public health and the environment.  As you know, the inclusion of such riders has undermined the Senate’s ability to pass appropriations bills in the past.  To help maintain regular order and to ensure bipartisan support, we urge you to keep the FY 2018 bills free of controversial environmental policy riders.


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