This morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the Senate floor and announced that, while Republicans and Democrats had essentially agreed what spending cuts should be included in a bill to keep the government operating, a shutdown was likely because of the GOP’s insistence on unrelated policy riders:
REID: Our differences are no longer over how much savings we get under government spending. The only thing holding up an agreement is ideology. […]
I’m sorry to say, Mr. President, that my friend, the Speaker, and the Republican leadership have drawn a line in the sand. … the two main issues that are holding this matter up are the choice of women, reproductive rights, and clean air. These matters have no place on a budget bill, Mr. President. This is a bill to keep the government running with dollars. They want to roll back the Clean Air Act. So if this government shuts down – and it looks like it’s headed in that direction – it’s going to be based on my friends in the House of Representatives, the leadership over there, focusing on ideological matters that have nothing to do with funding this government.
It was this same insistence on unrelated policy riders by Republicans that prompted the last government shutdown in 1995. A look back:
“Gingrich and Dole are offering the funding and higher-debt bills but have loaded them with ‘riders’ such as the Medicare bill that the president won’t accept and with other items such as limits on appeals by death-row inmates. [Denver Post, 11/15/95]
“One of the largest spending bills, for the Commerce, Justice and State Departments, is still being negotiated because it has riders on social issues like school prayer. The spending bill for the District of Columbia has been bogged down over a provision to bar Federal money to pay for abortions in the District and would prohibit public hospitals and clinics from offering abortion services.” [New York Times, 11/29/95]
“Congress has been unable to send any bill to the president because of the excessive number of anti-environmental riders.” [U.S. Newswire, 12/8/95]
The funding bill passed by the Republican-controlled House contains more than 80 unrelated policy riders on issues, from abortion to net neutrality to environmental regulations. You can check them out here.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has urged his party to drop the policy riders so that a government shutdown can be avoided. Yesterday, Coburn said “And my recommendation to my friends in the House is, you know, it’s highly unlikely many riders are going to get passed…so why don’t you take the spending [cuts] and let’s get on to the budget.”