WASHINGTON, May 6, 2015 – Republicans are gearing up to use the fiscal 2016 appropriations process to target a long list of issues from the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to menu labeling and greenhouse gas regulations.
The key question is how many of these policy riders Republicans can stack onto appropriations bills without risking they get none of them enacted over resistance from fellow Democrats and President Obama. “There is going to be a limit,” said Senate appropriator John Hoeven, R-N.D. “We’re going to want to do a lot more. But we’re going to have to see what we can get.”
The House has already started moving the first of its 12 individual appropriations bills. The Energy and Water measure that passed the House last week includes a policy rider that would block the administration from implementing its WOTUS rule, starting Oct. 1.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to start moving any of its bills, but GOP members are itching to attach a number of riders, and there’s no higher priority than the WOTUS provision that just emerged from the House.
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the Republican who chairs the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, told Agri-Pulse that the riders his bill is likely to include would provide schools some relief from USDA’s school nutrition standards, blunt the impact of the Food and Drug Administration’s menu labeling rule, and ensure that the new dietary guidelines don’t address sustainability factors.
Hoeven said he expects the committee’s policy riders to make it intact through the Senate. It would take 60 votes to remove one of the provisions. But it will also take 60 votes to move the bill through the Senate, so Republicans will need some Democratic support. Republicans control just 54 votes. Appropriators will have to be mindful not to overreach.
“The balancing act will be, what can we include and still pass the bill,” Hoeven said.
The problems come “if we bog down on getting the whole bill, or if we truly believe we’re going to get a veto,” he added.
There’s also a risk that amendments could be added to a bill, such as the agriculture appropriations, that could complicate its passage. But an amendment to, for example, cut crop insurance subsidies also would require 60 votes to get adopted, a high hurdle, Hoeven noted.
Hoeven will likely be involved with Moran in addressing school nutrition standards. He introduced legislation last week to roll back the 100-percent whole grain requirement for school meals and to freeze the existing sodium limit. The Senate Agriculture Committee is likely to consider both those provisions when it writes a reauthorization bill this year, but it would be next to impossible to get the legislation enacted before the current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, expires Sept. 30, hence the plan for an appropriations policy rider.
The menu labeling rule that Moran is targeting requires restaurants with more than 20 locations to list calorie information for their products on menus and menu boards. It also applies to foods, such as made-to-order sandwiches, ordered from a menu or menu board at a grocery store or delicatessen, and foods available at self-serve salad or hot food bars. Moran said at a March hearing that the FDA shouldn’t have included grocery store delis in the labeling requirement.
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