The House of Representatives passed HR 4660, the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill late Thursday night on a 321-87 vote. While dozens of amendments to the bill were proposed in the floor debate, which started Wednesday evening, few of those addressed NASA (the Census Bureau, oddly enough, was far more frequently targeted for cuts) and most did not pass.
The House did approve by voice vote an amendment by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) to transfer $7 million from NASA’s space operations account to its space technology account, a very small offset of the $85.5 million cut the program received versus the administration’s request by the Appropriations Committee. (Kaptur, whose district includes NASA Glenn Research Center, proposed and then withdrew an amendment to increase space technology funding during the markup of the bill by the full appropriations committee earlier in the month.) The House also passed by voice vote an amendment from Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) to block NASA from spending funding on its Advanced Food Technology Program, a very small program that has been flagged by Sen. Tom Coburn’s “Wastebook” in the past. SapcePolicyOnline.com has the full rundown of the NASA-related amendments and their outcomes.
The passage of the bill did not get much attention from the space community. An exception was the Coalition for Space Exploration, which thanked the House for passing a bill that includes “critical additional funding needed for programs that are vital to our nation’s future, and for providing the means to keep our deep space exploration program on track.” The organization didn’t identify those programs, but it’s a likely reference to the Space Launch System and Orion, which both receive increases in the bill versus the administration’s request.
Attention now turns to the Senate, where the CJS subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee is slated to mark up its appropriations bill Tuesday at 11 am. Many expect the Senate to offer NASA funding in the bill at or above the overall level in the House bill, although how those funds are spent among various programs may be different. The Planetary Society, for example, is concerned that NASA’s planetary science programs won’t get the same increase in the Senate bill as they did in the House. It’s asking its members who live in California and Maryland to contact committee chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and request at least $1.45 billion for planetary science, the same level as the House bill.