The good news: the Senate finally passed the Commerce, Justice, and Science FY08 appropriations bill Tuesday after defeating an effort to transfer some money from the space agency. As the Houston Chronicle reports, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) introduced an amendment that would have transferred $150 million from NASA’s science, aeronautics, and exploration account to the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses states for jailing illegal immigrants (not space aliens, Rudy.) The amendment was defeated on a 68-25 vote (although the Chronicle reports the vote as 70-23). Opponents of the amendment, like Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, argued that anything that stripped money from NASA would extend the “gap” between the shuttle and Orion, creating, as she put it, “a security risk for the United States” (a belief that isn’t exactly universally shared).
The bad news: the bill still has to be reconciled with the House version that doesn’t have the extra $1 billion the Senate approved earlier this month. The overall appropriations bill still faces a threatened presidential veto. According to a report by the AP, Congress plans this appropriations bill to be one of the first to be sent to the president “to test the strength of his veto”.