WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives voted yesterday to release millions of pages of secret government documents on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The House approved the measure by a voice vote after representatives from three committees closed a loophole that had threatened passage of the bill.
The Senate has already approved similar legislation, but one major hurdle remains before the movement to free the files, sparked by director Oliver Stone's controversial 1991 motion picture "JFK," claims its victory.
The Bush administration has objected to a provision in the House bill that lets a special three-judge panel select the members of an independent five-member panel to supervise the release of the records.
The Justice Department has said that it may urge Mr. Bush to veto the bill because it violates executive privilege, by which presidents have claimed control of records of their administrations' decision-making process.
Congressional critics of the Bush administration's position, such as Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., whose Government Operations Committee held hearings on the bill, say that after 30 years the records are now historical documents, not part of any decision-making process, and should be opened to scholars and the public.
Under the terms of the Senate bill, which passed that body on July 27 by a voice vote, the president would appoint the five-member panel.
Negotiators from each house will attempt to meet in September to reconcile their differences.
The loophole, inserted by the House Judiciary Committee at the request of the National Archives, would have exempted from the legislation materials held at three presidential libraries -- including records of the Rockefeller Commission, which probed CIA misdeeds during the administration of President Gerald Ford and which are now in the Ford Library.
Documents at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston and the Lyndon Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, also would have been exempted by the clause.
Until 1978, presidential papers were considered personal property and were donated to the libraries.
"After almost 30 years of mystery, the conspiracy theories can now be put to rest -- or proven," said Mr. Conyers.
"We may never know the whole truth about what led up to the events of Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. But we can, perhaps, identify baseless theories and put them to rest."
Former staff members of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations have said repeatedly that no one document will rock their conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy.
But the House committee found evidence of a conspiracy, and rTC the millions of pages of records, tapes and other evidence are expected to cast new light on these investigations, on Oswald, and his associates.