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Riders Are Key to Endgame Strategy

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Steven LaTourette said the strategy on the spending bills is to have a few riders on each bill and then allow Members to keep some while forcing them to give up others.

“The strategy is to develop two or three on each bill that we can honestly go to them and say, ‘We have to have these and we’re willing to give up on the others,’” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), an
appropriator, said.

Complicating matters for Republicans, though, is the fact that House Democrats will likely be needed to pass the package.

“Because we’ve been able to show that we can give support if appropriate, I think our hand has been strengthened in these negotiations,” House Appropriations ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) said.

Still, Democrats have indicated that while some riders are off the table — mainly those dealing with social issues and defunding health insurance and financial regulatory reform — they will support others.

“We’ve made it very clear, and they understand the kinds of riders that would be, in effect, just poking fingers in our eyes,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “We’ll have to look at them rider by rider, we’ll have to ask the subcommittee chairs what they think and we’ll have to review them.”

In particular, Dicks said an Environmental Protection Agency-related rider that would prevent regulation of some storm water discharges could be something to which Democrats acquiesce.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) — ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment, which oversees the EPA — said Democrats might also accept reductions to the agency’s funding in exchange for dropping some of the “most egregious” riders, including one that would eliminate regulations of mountaintop removal mining.

“We may have to accept some moderate reduction in EPA funding — they’re really insistent on that,” he said.

Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said that while he thinks the negotiations will be fruitful, it is still possible his bill could be split off into a continuing resolution over EPA riders.

The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill could also suffer the same fate over riders that would defund health insurance reform, the signature legislative achievement of the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress. But Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, said he believes his bill will be in the package.

“I think we will be part of the package,” Rehberg said. “We’re working our way through it, and I have no reason to believe we won’t be successful. I have no reason to believe I won’t be able to bring something forward.”

Though they are still ironing out agreements on abortion and health care riders, Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Chairwoman
Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) said a CR on her bill would be unlikely because, for instance, the General Services Administration would not have enough money to cover its leases.

Rep. José Serrano, that subcommittee’s ranking member, said he is re-litigating a rider tacked onto the April budget deal restricting the District of Columbia from spending its public funds on abortion programs.

“In the negotiations that we’re having, every time it’s my turn to speak, I say, ‘You cannot bring D.C. back 20 years,’” the New York Democrat said.

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