On a day that was pretty awful on space topics in general—be the news embarrassing, bizarre, or horribly tragic—there was a one positive development. The full House passed the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill, which would give NASA $17.6 billion in FY2008, $300 million more than what the Bush Administration requested. There were no floor amendments to alter NASA’s funding that I found, although there was one by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) that would “prohibit the funds made available in this Act may be used in violation of Subtitle A of Title VIII (International Space Station Independent Safety Taskforce) of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005.” The amendment was a non-controversial one, and approved by voice vote.
Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO), chairman of the space subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee, called the budget “a step in the right direction” in a statement. “While this funding level does not reach the amount authorized under the 2005 NASA Reauthorization Act, it will help balance NASA’s many responsibilities and represents a step forward in tight budget times.” As for funding of the Vision for Space Exploration, specifically the Orion CEV, Udall noted the impending gap between the shuttle and Orion. “It is within the Administration’s power to send over budget requests in FY 2009 and FY 2010 to address this gap within the context of a balanced overall NASA program, and I hope that the Administration will do so.”
The Senate has yet to take up its version of the budget, which is about $150 million smaller in total than the House version (and with a different distribution of funding), but also holds the promise of a “Mikulski miracle” if Sen. Barbara Mikulski and her allies are able to push through a billion-dollar increase for the agency during floor debate, However, keep in mind that earlier this week the Office of Management and Budget issued a statement of policy that strongly opposes the House version of the bill, and threatened a veto if submitted to the president in its current form.