What Is a Rider in Congress?

In Congress, a rider is an amendment made to a bill that does not have a strong association with the bill's content. Riders are often controversial in nature, with one example including a proposal designed to increase the amount donors can give in the 2015 spending bill.

Riders are sometimes introduced as a means of implementing controversial policies, and at other times, the contentious suggestions are added on to prevent the legislation passing. They exist at a state and congressional level, and 43 of the 50 states are constitutionally able to veto them. In some cases, either the bill must pass with the rider included or it is rejected.

One example of a rider is adding new policies to spending bills. The 2015 spending bill included a rider that proposed increasing donor spending power from $97,200 to $777,600. Such a proposal would counteract efforts to reduce donor influence following the Watergate Scandal. Further riders included budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, and allowing mining firms to dump toxic waste in Appalachia streams.

Another famous example of controversial riders introduced a rider related to student loan repayments to the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. By adding riders to bills that are central to fiscal stability, the proposers increase the chances of them passing.