House and Senate lawmakers who are retiring at year’s end are in the crosshairs of a powerful group of conservative advocacy groups that say they don’t want them involved in making decisions about how to wrap up this year’s appropriations process.
Led by the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, a coalition of more than 30 conservative organizations is demanding that Congress foreclose any post-election session to finalize this year’s 12 spending bills in order to block the involvement of lame ducks, who at present include Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and 32 other members of both parties.
Staffers to AFP and Freedom Partners said the 22 Republicans and 12 Democrats won’t be accountable to voters and will try to use a year-end negotiation on an omnibus or other vehicle to make a final attempt to help out K Street connections or steer funds to favored programs. One aide to the Koch financed groups said in a call with reporters that the end result will just be “a target for lobbyists to go out and swarm on.”
“We know traditionally these bills are formulated behind closed doors, shown to the American public hours before they’re voted on, and no one has the time to go look and see what’s in them,” said Andy Koenig, a former aide to the House Republican Conference who is now a senior policy advisor to the organization. “They become Trojan horses for a bunch of special interest handouts.”
Koenig refused to say that conservative groups oppose any work in a post-election session but said it will try to defeat appropriators’ effort to pass a three-month continuing resolution in September that would require lawmakers to revisit federal spending—and possibly tax—matters in December. Members of the House Freedom Caucus are expected to back their stance when they meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other members after they return to work Sept. 6.
Koenig also declined to say what length of CR is preferred by conservative groups, which plan an aggressive lobbying campaign when lawmakers return. But whether it’s a six-month CR or a one-year stopgap, derailing a December wrap-up session could instead be designed to give Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his advisors the final say over this year’s bills. The groups outlined their position in an Aug. 30 letter to lawmakers.
The conservative groups made clear they don’t want President Barack Obama involved in any spending bill talks. Daniel Garza, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, told reporters many Hispanic voters have concerns about U.S. economic policies and suggested they might follow the path of those in Argentina and Venezuela who recently supported “market-friendly” candidates.
“Many of them have lived the consequences of this type of irresponsible approach to governing,” Garza said.
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