THE ADMINISTRATION threatened all year to veto the Interior Department appropriations bill if Congress once again used it as cover for riders that vitiate environmental law. The president renewed the threat just the other day. The conference report headed toward him nonetheless still contains about two dozen such provisions.
An effort to strike them failed in the House Wednesday night on a mostly party-line vote. Moderate Republicans denounced the extraneous provisions but succumbed to leadership pressure to support them. The Senate, where most of the riders originated, likewise endorsed the bill. Challenged this way in the past, the president has negotiated the removal of some provisions, acquiesced in others. This time he ought to just say no, to all of them.
They are basically handouts to resource industries -- welfare for the non-needy -- in the form of suspensions of environmental and related law. Grazing permits would be rolled over without environmental review. New forest management and hardrock mining regulations would be suspended. Wildlife surveys before decisions to allow timbering, mining, etc. on federal land could be waived. A limit on the accumulation of mine waste would be eased. An increase in royalties on oil and gas extracted from federal property would again be delayed, even though it would merely require that companies pay on the basis of fair market value.
The provisions are in the bill because the authors think the president won't jeopardize the underlying appropriation by demanding they be dropped. That's sometimes been true in the past; this time he ought to prove them wrong.