WASHINGTON -- The President's budget squeaked by theHouse of Representatives by a two-vote margin, 218 to 216,Thursday night, just after 10 Eastern Daylight Time.

If the Senate passes the budget tonight, Clinton's victory willalso be a win for biotechnology and the Biotechnology IndustryOrganization (BIO). The president helped biotechnology byworking hard to get the R&D tax credits and capital gainsincentive in the bill, and BIO returned the favor by lobbyingfor the bill.

The Senate vote is still up in the air. Every senator has declaredhis or her vote except for Bob Kerrey, D-Mass., a Clintonopponent in the primary, and the pre-vote tally is now 50-49against. If Kerrey supports the president, Vice President AlGore will have to break the tie.

In Thursday's showdown in the House,16 Democrats defectedjust an hour before the vote, according to television newsreports. In all, 40 Democrats voted against the president.

"We're not the slightest bit surprised at the narrow margin,"Chuck Ludlam, BIO's vice president for government relationstold BioWorld. "Taxes and spending are very divisive issues.The last four (presidential) elections have been decided onthese issues, and I am sure the next one will be, too."

BIO did its part on behalf of the president's bill. On Wednesday,Ludlam attended a press conference hosted by Gene Sperling,deputy secretary of Labor, to support the bill. And early lastweek, BIO joined the National Venture Capital Association andthe American Electronics Association to put out a joint pressrelease in support of the budget.

"When push comes to shove and (the White House has) to makechoices, we're on the inside," said Ludlam.

Two provisions in the bill proved disappointing to the industry.Vaccines will be available as an entitlement through Medicaid,public health clinics, to the uninsured and to the underinsuredinstead of just to those on Medicaid. "We are disappointed thatit is essentially still an entitlement program, Mary Beth Bierut,BIO's director of federal government relations told BioWorld.And Bierut said that compounds for life-threatening diseaseswill be allowable on state formularies, contrary to what shehad earlier told BioWorld (see BioWorld, Aug. 5).

On the bright side, a provision that would have openedcompanies' books to the Secretary of Health and HumanServices was eliminated.

Ludlam said that Sen. Dennis DeConcini's endorsement of thebill, late Thursday probably had helped sway the House vote.DeConcini's move "gave the House confidence that if they passit, the Senate will also" because many members do not want tostick their necks out on such a controversial bill, and then lose.DeConcini is a member of the Senate Biotechnology Caucus.

-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.