By pushing a number of unrelated policy riders on spending bills and other key legislation, Republicans are breaking one of the promises they made to voters which helped them take control of the House of Representatives, a spokeswoman for a Washington environmental group charges.
By attaching conservative policy provisions on “must-pass legislation,” Republicans have broken their own “Pledge to America,” a list of promises they issued ahead of the 2010 midterm elections which turned the House back to GOP control. The pledge was modeled after the earlier “Contract for America” which Republicans used in 1994 to win control of Congress.
The so-called policy riders congressional Republicans are pushing include rollbacks of environmental regulations attached to spending bills required to avoid a potential government shutdown. They also include a provision to approve a controversial transnational oil pipeline attached to a bill to extend middle-class tax cuts.
“The flip-flopping House Republicans got it right the first time. In their much-ballyhooed ‘Pledge to America’ in September 2010, they vowed to ‘end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with ‘must-pass’ legislation.’’ Such extraneous riders, they correctly noted, would ‘circumvent the will of the American people,’” says Suzanne Struglinski of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which opposes the pipeline and other Republican-led environmental policy riders.
“Sadly, they now are singing a different tune. Instead of taking up major legislation one issue at a time, as they promised, this week the same lawmakers are larding up a must-pass spending bill and a tax relief measure with riders designed not for the public weal but for the benefit of special interests,” Struglinski adds. “The growing laundry list of anti-environmental riders includes one that would force a premature judgment on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, another that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from updating public health protections against mercury emissions and carbon dioxide pollution from power plants, and one that would weaken the Endangered Species Act.”
House Republicans are preparing to vote Tuesday on legislation which would tie the extension of President Obama’s payroll tax cut for the middle class with forced approval of the plan to build the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The pipeline could threaten an aquifer much of Nebraska uses for clean drinking water.
(You can read an overall explanation of the Keystone XL project, and its controversies, online here.)
The State Department must give its blessing to Keystone XL because the project would cross the U.S. border.
To the outrage of both Republicans and many in organized labor, Obama delayed approval for the pipeline last month until 2013. The independent inspector general of the State Department is investigating the process by which the pipeline was considered.
Many on the left, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have alleged undue lobbying influence on the process.
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.