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News from the open access movement

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The budget battle that will decide the OA mandate at the NIH

If you remember, the House of Representatives has passed an appropriations bill containing language directing the NIH to upgrade its OA policy from request to a requirement.  The Senate did not vote on comparable language before its recess, and President Bush threatened to veto the House bill on grounds unrelated to the OA provision.  Now that Congress is back in session, things are heating up.

Richard Simon has a good preview of the upcoming rumble in today’s Los Angeles Times.  Excerpt:

With lawmakers returning today from their summer recess, the Democratic-controlled Congress and the White House are headed for what could be the biggest budget fight in more than a decade -- and both sides are relishing it.

"There is going to be a big showdown," said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a budget watchdog group, "because both sides believe they have something to gain politically. I don't get the sense that either side is interested in compromise."

President Bush, under pressure from fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party to take a firm hand in erasing the red ink in the budget, is threatening to veto nine of the 12 appropriations bills approved by the House. The White House said a number of the bills called for "irresponsible and excessive" spending.

Democrats, writing their first budget bills since taking control of Congress in January, vigorously defend the legislation, eager to increase spending on domestic programs they believe were neglected under Republican rule.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, mocked the president who inherited a budget surplus from his Democratic predecessor and has presided over six straight years of deficits. "It is truly remarkable that President Bush presumes to lecture Democrats in Congress -- or anyone for that matter -- on the subject of fiscal restraint," he said.

Setting the stage for what one budget analyst predicted would be "great budgetary theater" is the clock. The 2008 fiscal year begins Oct. 1, and Congress has yet to send to the president a single appropriations bill needed to keep government agencies running. The House has passed all 12 appropriations bills, but the Senate has passed just one....

GOP activists see a budget fight as a way to get back into the good graces of conservatives angry at the growth of government spending under a Republican president and previous [Republican] Congress....