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House chokes on Manhattan Project Park bill

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A majority of members of the House of Representatives Thursday voted in favor of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act, H.R. 5987. However, the bill failed to receive the two-thirds majority necessary to pass under suspension of House rules.

The vote on the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act was 237-180, about 50 votes short of a two-thirds supermajority, said Cindy Kelly, president of the nonprofit Atomic Heritage Foundation.

H.R. 5987 establishes a Manhattan Project National Historical Park with one of the sites being Los Alamos.

While the bill did not pass on the House floor today under suspension of House rules, the final vote of 237-180 met the test for a simple majority vote.

Chairman Doc Hastings, who introduced the legislation, was quoted in the Oak Ridge, Tenn. newspaper as saying, “we’ve shown there is support for this park and will be working toward the goal of enacting this into law before the end of this year."

On Thursday Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who has been a critic of the bill, called for a roll call rather than let the bill pass by a simple voice vote.

Kucinich told the Los Angeles Times:  "At a time when we should be organizing the world toward abolishing nuclear weapons before they abolish us, we are instead indulging in admiration at our cleverness as a species. The bomb is about graveyards; it's not about national parks."

According to the Atomic Heritage Foundation, Kucinich distorted the purpose of the park, characterizing it as a “celebration” of nuclear weapons.

The AHF release went to say, “as a unit of the national park system, the National Park Service will interpret the Manhattan Project and its legacy in all its complexity, giving voice to all sides of this contested history. It is an important that we remember and reflect upon the past.

The Atomic Heritage Foundation has been working on this for over a decade. “In partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, local governments and historical organizations at the three major sites, we have made significant progress with preserving this history.

“We will continue to work hard to realize our goal of establishing a park and are hopeful that the 112th Congress will find a way to enact the legislation.”

Passage of the Manhattan Project bill might now depend upon the outcome of the Nov. 6 election and the “lame duck” congressional session that follows.

Kelly told the Oak Ridge newspaper the bill was considered this week under a suspension of House rules, which is generally used to quickly pass non-controversial legislation. Those rules limit debate to 40 minutes, prohibit amendments, and require a two-thirds vote for approval.

H.R. 5987 was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee, which Hastings chairs, in July. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Hastings and Representatives Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee and Ben Lujan of New Mexico.

Similar legislation, Senate bill 3300, has been introduced in the Senate by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman. Senators Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Tom Udall, and Lamar Alexander are also sponsors of the legislation.