Yesterday the House and Senate, as expected, approved another continuing resolution (CR), this one funding the federal government through March 4 at FY2010 levels. The passage means that it will be up to the new Congress—one with a new Republican majority in the House and a narrower Democratic majority in the Senate—to deal with FY2011 spending. As previously noted, the CR doesn’t contain any new anomalies or other provisions related to NASA, which means that, among other items, the prohibition in the FY10 appropriations bill that prevents NASA from terminating any Constellation programs remains in effect, despite the human spaceflight plan enacted in the NASA authorization act signed into law in October.
The extended CR has raised questions about NASA’s ability to carry out various initiatives, including an additional shuttle mission authorized in the new act. However, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) told Florida Today this week that the new CR should not imperil that mission or other NASA priorities. That, though, may be based on the assumption that NASA would get in 2011 no less than the FY10 topline of a little over $18.7 billion versus the authorized (and requested) level of $19 billion. In a hearing at the beginning of December Nelson said he expected NASA to carry out the provisions of the authorization act if funded at the 2010 level, and, in particular, got a commitment that NASA could carry out the additional shuttle mission if funded at that level. However, there remains the possibility that a new, more fiscally conservative Congress might seek to cut funding below the 2010 levels, either overall or for specific programs, when it convenes in January.