House Doesn't Override Presidential Veto of Labor-HHS Bill Which Contains NIH OA Mandate

By two votes, the House failed to override President Bush's veto of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008, which contained the NIH open access mandate (the vote was 277-141). Bloomberg reports that Senate Democrats have a new strategy:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats will combine the 11 unfinished appropriations bills still needed to fund the federal government into one measure that exceeds the administration's request by $11 billion—half the $22 billion Democrats initially supported.

However, CQPolitics reports that:

The White House brushed off Reid’s proposal Thursday, as administration officials have done previously when Democrats have said they are willing to negotiate on funding levels.

"The president has been clear that Congress should adhere to the budgetary process and pass individual funding bills at reasonable and responsible spending levels," said Sean Kevelighan, a spokesman for the White House budget office. "Perhaps [the] Democratic leadership in Congress. . . should concern itself less with capturing political news cycles and more on their fundamental responsibility to fund the federal government."

Peter Suber had this to say about the override failure:

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.