It has taken 30 years, but President Richard M. Nixon's library is finally about to be part of the presidential library system.

Lawmakers have approved $4 million to move Nixon's papers to his presidential library in California, the first big appropriation for the effort to transform the library from private to public.

Half of the money will be spent to begin moving records, staff and operations from the Washington area to the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif., and the other half for an addition to house them.

The money is less than the National Archives and Records Administration and library supporters had wanted, but it is a big improvement on President Bush's budget request, which included no money for the library.

The funding was part of a spending bill for transportation, treasury, housing and other programs that passed the House on Friday and is expected to clear the Senate.

The archives transfer was made possible by language in a 2004 spending bill deleting a federal ban on removing Nixon's papers and tapes from the Washington area. The prohibition had been in place since after Nixon resigned in 1974. Lawmakers, afraid Nixon would destroy documents necessary for the Watergate investigation, passed a law giving the government possession of his records.

Rep. Gary Miller, whose district includes the library, and other California Republicans sought the change that will allow the records to move to California, where supporters have operated a private library and museum at the site of Nixon's boyhood home since 1990.

The federal government still must formally accept a letter of offer for the library, which library officials expect to present in coming months.

The transfer of the archives has faced opposition from Nixon critics who say the private library run by his supporters presents an overly rosy view of his presidency.

Associated Press