Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, November 15, 2007

House fails to override Bush veto of bill containing OA mandate for NIH

Andrew Taylor, House to Sustain Veto of Health, Ed Bill, Associated Press, November 15, 2007.  Excerpt:

House Republicans on Thursday night easily sustained President Bush's veto of a Democratic health and education spending bill.

The 277-141 vote looked deceptively close, falling just two votes short of the two-thirds tally required to overturn Bush's veto. But as they did on three previous occasions, GOP leaders confidently managed their ranks to make sure Bush would not be embarrassed.

Some of the congressional combatants already were looking past the veto in hopes that it might prompt the White House to negotiate on that measure and 10 other bills that provide money to Cabinet departments for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters that when Congress returns in December from a two-week Thanksgiving recess, Democrats would send Bush a catchall spending bill combining Congress' unfinished budget work — after cutting about $11 billion from them.

Democrats have written domestic spending bills adding more than $22 billion to Bush's budget, prompting a wave of veto threats from the White House. Reid promised to cut that amount in half, saying it was a fair compromise.

"We're going to bundle these bills up and send a bill splitting the difference," Reid told reporters. If Bush vetoes that bill, Democrats might just put the government on autopilot at current spending levels for weeks, months....

Comment.  OK, on to Plan B.  The OA mandate for the NIH is a small part of a big bill to pay for about one-thirteenth of the federal government.  Some version of the appropriation will certainly pass and get the President's signature.  You can already see the jockeying between Congressional leaders and the White House about the contours of that version.  There are four grounds for optimism:

  1. The OA mandate was approved by both houses of Congress.  The easiest provisions to delete are those approved by just one chamber and kept by the House-Senate conference committee.
  2. The OA mandate has bipartisan support in Congress and Republican friends in the Executive Branch.
  3. The President has expressed strong objection to some of the policy provisions of the bill, but his stated concern about the OA provision is very mild by comparison.  If Congress deletes some of the more sensitive provisions in the spirit of compromise, it needn't touch the OA mandate.  In fact, deleting the OA provision would do virtually nothing to ingratiate the President.
  4. To reduce overall spending levels in the bill, Congress will cut some of the appropriations.   But the OA mandate is a policy change, not an appropriation.  There's no need to cut it to satisfy the President's fiscal objections to the current bill.   Stay tuned.