House Dems hit ideological schemes, budget cuts in GOP money bill

WASHINGTON—Ideological schemes and cuts in domestic spending are rife in the House GOP’s version of a money bill for a wide range of federal agencies for the year starting Oct. 1, Democrats on the committee that helps dole out such federal funds say.

The GOP-run House took up the money bill the week of Sept. 15, covering the departments of Labor, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Treasury, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, among others. It also covers independent agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board.

And it’s festooned with “riders” that appeal to GOP ideology, money-cutting or both.

“This bill also fails on the merits,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, whose Republican majority drafted and passed the legislation on party-line votes.

The measure “slashes funding for teacher training, apprenticeship grants to help young adults train for good jobs, law enforcement grants that help keep our communities safe, environmental protections that ensure we drink clean water and breathe clean air, highway and transit grants that improve the quality of life of our constituents, and scientific and research programs important to global competitiveness,” she explained.

One big ideological scheme in the money bill virtually guts the Dodd-Frank financial protections for consumers against big banks and shady financiers whose fraud and finagling produced the Great Recession. It even bans regulation of exploitative “payday lenders.”

Other GOP ideological schemes inserted in the measure ban all money for Planned Parenthood and ban money the government needs to implement the Affordable Care Act.

A special-interest provision bans federal regulation of truckers’ rest periods. The trucking lobby pushed that prohibition, over the opposition of the Teamsters. And the bill even slams former First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts to get school kids to eat healthy lunches, by barring the Agriculture Department from limiting the amount of salt in them.

The ideological schemes particularly hit workers and their families. For instance, the measure bans the Labor Department from using any money to enforce its “fiduciary responsibility” rule – the one that orders bankers and brokers who handle pensions to put their clients’ interests first, not their own.

There’s also a slight cut in money for job safety and health enforcement. By contrast, Mexican border enforcement would get hundreds of millions more dollars this coming year – and that’s not counting the $1.6 billion “down payment” on GOP President Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall. Lawmakers inserted that in another money bill they approved earlier.

The ideological provisions in this money bill also don’t include other Republican schemes pending as amendments from individual lawmakers. “The House bill is getting much worse,” said Jordan Barab, former deputy Occupational Safety and Health Administrator during the Obama years and a former union job safety and health director.

“That bill cuts OSHA, MSHA and the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health budgets,” he added in his job safety blog, Confined Spaces. And “poison pill riders will be voted on that would prohibit implementation of OSHA’s silica standard and injury tracking recordkeeping rule,” he added. The Trump administration has yanked the tracking rule.

While the House was expected to approve the money bill, it faces a tougher road in the Senate. The likely outcome is both versions would be rolled into one monster bill to keep the government going through the rest of fiscal 2018. Congress must pass that by Dec. 8.

Other ideologically oriented and/or anti-worker sections of the money bill include:

  • · A $25 million cut, to $249 million, for the National Labor Relations Board. One rank-and-file right wing GOP congressman wants to cut the NLRB to $150 million.
  • · $1.5 billion combined for OSHA, MSHA and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, all at DOL. DeLauro calls them the “worker protection agencies.” Combined, they’d get $59 million less than this fiscal year. Barab reported the Senate’s version of the Labor Department’s money bill keeps funding flat for OSHA and MSHA, without a cut.
  •  $1.7 billion for new construction or vehicle purchases for U.S. subways, bus systems and light rail systems, down $659 million from this year’s figure. That money is a key cause of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents their workers. Last year’s Republican Party platform doubted subways and buses should get any money at all.

That bus and subway cut “breaks repeated promises from the administration and the (Republican) majority to invest in our nation’s infrastructure,” said Rep. David Price, D-N.C., top Democrat on the panel handling Transportation Department funds.

· Telling the chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a political appointee, he or she can arbitrarily cut workers’ pay “in contravention of collective bargaining agreements” to avoid furloughs.

· Banning the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “from moving forward with a policy change aimed at collecting more gender and race information from employers.” Under business and Trump pressure, EEOC yanked that idea in early September, for further study.

EEOC wanted to collect the data more frequently, break wages down by race and gender and publish the statistics in aggregate numbers, not identifying individual workers. The point was to shed further light on unequal pay for equal work – and shame companies into moving towards pay equality.

  • · Eliminating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s “supervision and enforcement authority” over large financial institutions – the ones, though the Dems don’t say so, whose finagling and fraud caused the 2008 crash that robbed people of jobs, homes and pensions.
  • · Banning the CFPB from “outlawing pre-dispute arbitration.” Agency Director Richard Cordray says banks and financiers force arbitration on consumers, taking away their rights to get money when they’ve been wronged. The financiers win 93 percent of arbitrations, he adds.
  • · Banning CFPB’s “Volcker rule,” meant to split banks’ risky financial trading from their everyday business handling consumers’ funds – or using consumers’ funds for their trades.
  • · Banning the CFPB from regulating and enforcing its rules against exploitative payday lenders, who charge consumers annual interest in the triple figures.
  • · Killing all $2.1 billion for the Education Department’s Effective State Instruction Grants, one of several education improvement programs, all top causes of the School Administrators.

Eliminating all federal family planning ($286 million) and teen pregnancy prevention ($108 million) money. That’s in addition to cutting off all funds for Planned Parenthood for services – abortion, health counseling, pregnancy prevention or anything else – it gives to Medicaid recipients. Those three moves “attack women’s health,” says Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the top Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee that handles labor, education and health and human services funding.

Source: PAI