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Congress should build on the momentum from spending bill

Greg Nash

In a resounding rebuke of President Trump’s budget, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle came together last month to pass an omnibus spending bill that funds core programs that protect the health and well-being of families across the country.

Thanks to the persistence of the American people and our allies on Capitol Hill, many critical agencies and programs that safeguard our air, water, lands, wildlife, financial system, worker rights, consumer safety, and children’s health were spared from the chopping block. At the same time, Republican policy riders attacking the environment, women’s health, and other safeguards for communities were similarly jettisoned.

{mosads}As Congress enters yet another budget season, it would do well to follow the model established in the spending bill by once again rejecting Trump’s extreme cuts, including the idea of “rescinding” parts of the omnibus, and poison pill policy riders that only heighten the risk of a spending impasse.

Since Trump came into office, his administration has waged a relentless assault on programs that keep our nation safe and healthy. The administration and its Republican allies in Congress have sought to repeal environmental regulations like the clean water rule, gut consumer financial safeguards like the payday lending rule, hurt workers by rolling back standards to protect us from toxins in the workplace, deny funding to Planned Parenthood, and eliminate many other essential programs and policies.

But members of Congress with priorities more in line with the wishes of the people of this country, led by Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and Appropriations Committee ranking members Patrick Leahy and Nita Lowey, successfully fought off these efforts, and secured increased funding for many important initiatives.

The omnibus spending bill reverses a trend of declining investment and begins to provide states and the federal government with the resources to keep our communities vibrant, by doing things like funding clean energy research, providing critical new resources to update our election system in time for 2018, providing money to address the opioid abuse epidemic, and investing in agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which finally is empowered to investigate gun violence.

The spending bill largely avoided harmful and extraneous policy provisions that would have gutted protections essential to keeping kids safe from pollution and preserving our outdoors for future generations. Our organizations, along with our partners in the Clean Budget Coalition, advocated against the hundreds of these corporate giveaway and ideological policy riders that had been inappropriately included in the GOP’s draft spending bills. The rejection of these harmful riders helped break the impasse and smoothed the way for a final deal to be reached.

We must acknowledge that the final agreement isn’t perfect. Compromises never are. Republican leaders did manage to include a few controversial policies that have no place in a spending bill. Among these bad policies is one that makes it harder to finalize critical regulations around secret political spending. Efforts to weaken our campaign finance system and put special interests before people adhere to a troubling pattern we are seeing in Washington these days from an administration that seems to care more about boosting profits for industry rather than looking out for the interests of families.

Furthermore, while Congress provided a modest boost in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, it failed to reauthorize America’s best conservation program before it expires this September. Moreover, Trump and Republican leaders stymied a solution to keep families together and provide protections for Dreamers.

We hope Congress will address these issues as soon as possible. But we should not lose sight of the fact that Congress worked together to reject Trump’s budget and pass a spending plan that boosted domestic investments and largely steered clear of poisonous policy riders. This budget is a win for hardworking families over special interest lobbyists who want to sell out our country’s future to increase their bottom line.

While the voices of Americans resonated in Congress this time around, we know we can’t remain silent. Trump has already proposed disastrous cuts to health and safety programs in next year’s budget, and in an abrupt reversal, he is also floating the idea of rescinding funding from the recent spending deal. People in this country cannot afford another ride on the dirty budget rollercoaster.

So as Congress gets back to work on budget and appropriations issues, we again encourage our representatives to reject any effort that harms the health of our kids and future generations by slashing investments or sneaking in poison pill policy riders. That’s the surest path to passing a 2019 spending bill and showing constituents that Congress can tackle its most basic governing responsibilities.

Gene Karpinski is president of the League of Conservation Voters.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

Tags Budget Chuck Schumer Congress Democrats Donald Trump economy Government Nancy Pelosi Nita Lowey Patrick Leahy Policy Republicans

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