During an hour-long markup session Wednesday, the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee approved a fiscal year 2014 appropriations bill that would give NASA $16.6 billion. Committee members made no changes to the bill during the markup, and spent most of their time talking about various elements of the bill (or praising member Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL), who is resigning from Congress next month.)
The specific breakdown of spending proposed for NASA in the bill, beyond the general accounts and other provisions in the bill text, awaits the release of the report accompanying the bill. Most of the comments about NASA for the bill were about funding for the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs, as well as for planetary science. “This funding will keep NASA on schedule for upcoming flight milestones of the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System,” Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the CJS subcommittee, said in his opening statement.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) thanked Wolf and ranking member Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) for their support for NASA’s planetary science program, and read a relevant section of the as-yet-unreleased report. “NASA has once again proposed damaging and disproportionate reductions in the planetary science budget without any substantive justification,” Schiff said, reading from the report. “The committee’s recommendation seeks to address these shortcomings while also achieving programmatic balance among projects, destinations, and sizes.” Neither Schiff nor Wolf said what level of funding for planetary science the bill contained, but those comments suggested it was closer to the $1.5 billion in the separate authorization bill than the administration’s requested $1.22 billion.
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) spoke favorably about the SLS funding in the bill. “I think the real concern that so many have is that the agency continues to request an insufficient amount of funds” for SLS, he said. “The bottom line is, we can’t afford to fall behind other nations in this launch capability.”
The subcommittee also noted the bill’s support for NOAA’s weather satellite efforts, which would provide full funding for the Joint Polar Satellite System ($824 million) and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite ($955 million) programs. Both Wolf and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the full appropriations committee, identified those programs as priorities to be fully funded.
The bill now goes to the full House Appropriations Committee; although no markup has yet been announced, it may be considered as early as next week. Meanwhile, the Senate is set to markup its own version of the bill: the CJS subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee (chaired by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who is also chair of the full committee) has a markup session scheduled for Tuesday at 16th.