JONATHAN CHAIT APRIL 8, 2011
The budget impasse seems to hinge as much as anything else on the fate of a series of "riders" -- measures attached the the budget by the House GOP that don't have anything to do with the budget:
Top budget staff, after working through the night, returned Thursday morning with a proposed $34.5 billion in cuts, with $3 billion of that to come from the Pentagon.
Democrats said Mr. Boehner insisted that any deal also include some of so-called policy riders, which they argued injected conservative ideology into what should be a numbers battle.
“This is no longer about the budget deficit,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “It’s about bumper stickers.”
The media-popular idea idea that the budget fight is driven by the GOP’s cultural-conservative wing seems overblown. There are three provisions (out of nearly 100) that relate to abortion: one applies only the District of Columbia, one only to international organizations, and one only to Planned Parenthood. (And, given a federal court ruling that a more-or-less identical law about ACORN was unconstitutional, the last won’t stand up in court.) I’m pro-life myself and honestly I can’t see much of a reason to get excited about any of these provisions. ...
For all the wish-list-making involved in the health care fight, the much longer list of environment-related riders looks like it was written almost entirely by specific industry lobbyists who have good relationships with certain members of Congress. Although there are some very broad efforts that would end virtually every climate-change or carbon-regulation program in the government, most of the environmental efforts are very narrow and, one assumes, serve a very few interests.
Among other things, there are specific provisions that suspend a very particular rule related to cement making, end an obscure wetlands conservation program, change the treatment of coal ash as a pollutant, and end funding for a particular dam removal study in California. These are the stuff of typical budget riders and whether they are good or bad policy, it’s hard to see most of the bill’s non-climate change environmental provisions as anything other than the result of very narrow interest-group politics.
It's not surprising that the Republicans are giving narrow business interests such an outsized role in policymaking. My question is: is it normal for a party that controls just one chamber of th House to insist it must move policy in its direction, on numerous fronts, as a condition for allowing the government to continue? I don't remember Democrats doing this when they controlled two houses starting in 2007.