Democrats and Republicans in Congress, under the leadership of budget chairs Patty Murray and Paul Ryan, recently agreed on a budget deal which specifies government funding levels for 2014. Of course, a budget does not by itself authorize the federal government to spend money. That requires an appropriations bill, and if such a bill is not passed by January 15, there will be another government shutdown.

Now last time we had to pass an appropriations bill, at the end of September of last year, Republicans attached a policy rider to the bill which would have defended all of Obamacare's discretionary spending, although after the ensuing shutdown this was negotiated down to a policy rider that expedited income verification for Obamacare subsidies.

So my question is, do Republicans have any similar plans to attach policy riders to the upcoming appropriations bill? The Murray-Ryan deal included agreement on level of spending in the upcoming bill, but I don't know whether they agreed on whether there would be policy riders.

  • I'm not sure whether asking what a group may do in the future is on topic. If they haven't announced it, there's no way to know. – Bobson Jan 7 '14 at 15:11
  • @Bobson Well, perhaps some members of Congress have announced their plans, or perhaps there's been reporting on it. That's what I'm trying to find out. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 7 '14 at 16:19
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the future possiblities and we do not have working crystal balls. – SoylentGray Jan 9 '14 at 17:27
  • @Chad It's not about predicting the future, it's about finding out what Republicans' plans are, and that can be determined by seeing whether they've announced what their plans are. My answer is an attempt to do so. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 11 '14 at 10:23

I think I've found an answer to my own question: Republicans are talking about putting policy riders in the appropriations bill. According to this Reuters article, "A Senate Democratic aide said Republicans in the House of Representatives were insisting on including policy language aimed at restricting abortions, as well as prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions." And this Heritage Action blog post has a long list of policy riders that Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee have proposed over the past year that Heritage suggests ought to be included in the upcoming bill. (If Heritage wants policy riders, presumably some GOP Congressmen want it too.). That post also quotes Paul Ryan saying “by having an agreement like this…you get Congress to reclaim the power of the purse so that we set priorities. I’m fighting for a conscience clause rider on appropriations because I’m very worried about religious freedom… I can do that if Congress is put back in charge of appropriations, which we are because of this budget agreement.”

So it looks like there may be a prospect of a government shutdown if the parties can't agree on the presence of policy riders.

EDIT: Democrats and Republicans agreed on an omnibus spending bill yesterday, and it seems to contain the following policy riders:

  1. Bringing back the DC school voucher program
  2. Reversing the phaseout of energy-inefficient incandescent lightbulbs
  3. Prohibiting the Post Office from closing rural post offices or cutting Saturday delivery
  4. Requiring the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility to be maintained
  5. Defunding a (small) Obamacare "slush fund"
  6. Stopping the Export-Import Bank from reducing funding to carbon-producing power plants
  7. Defunding foreign aid to Libya unless the Secretary of State certifies that the Libyan government is cooperating with the Benghazi investigation.

I'm surprised that Democrats agreed to all these policy riders. Of course, when the bill goes back to the House there's still a chance that Republicans will add even more policy riders, which Democrats might object to. So we're not out of the woods yet as regards a government shutdown, although a temporary stopgap bill is going to delay the shutdown date by a few days after January 15.

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