Brown: Congress Will Move FY2022 Appropriations Bills Regardless of When Biden Sends Request

Brown: Congress Will Move FY2022 Appropriations Bills Regardless of When Biden Sends Request

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD), whose district surrounds NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, expects the House to vote on FY2022 appropriations bills beginning in June regardless of when President Biden sends his request to Congress. He anticipates continuing bipartisan support for Moon and Mars exploration, and increased oversight of the FAA’s human spaceflight regulations by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee after Congress deals with Biden’s infrastructure package.

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland)

Rumors of an imminent release of Biden’s FY2022 request for discretionary programs have been supplanted by stories that battles are continuing over how much will be requested for DOD.

Speaking to the Maryland Space Business Roundtable (MSBR) today, Brown said he does not expect the budget to reach Congress until next month, but insisted Congress does not need it to get going on appropriations bills.

“Rest assured, we are working diligently” to get all 12 regular appropriations bills to be ready for debate on the floor of the House “by June.”

The House and Senate are in recess until next week, but no FY2022 appropriations hearings have been held yet.  Members and staff are working behind the scenes, however.

Brown does not serve on any of the committees that oversee or fund NASA or NOAA, but is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, and House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

He did not want to speculate on how much would be requested for specific programs. When asked about NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon and go on to Mars, he enthusiastically predicted “considerable partisan support.”

People are motivated by different things. The idea of going back to the moon or investments we make to expand our exploration of Mars, a lot of you recognize that the benefits are not only what we find in space, but what we discover along the way in order to develop the technologies to get us places to sustain ourselves once we get there. We are discovering and inventing, so much that has benefits right here on planet Earth. So I don’t know what the number will be, but I do expect that there’s going to be considerable bipartisan support to continue these programs, whether it’s to the moon, to Mars, or, in words of Buzz Lightyear, or beyond.

Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan could have benefits for space, too, for broadband, climate, and facilities. “I think there’ll be a lot of good things in there that will promote and support the space industry.”

Among the facilities that could benefit is the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.  Asked if any of the money could be headed in that direction, Brown said he has visited Puerto Rico and knows how much help is needed to recover from the recent hurricanes and earthquakes. He sees the infrastructure bill as an opportunity to address some of those issues, including Arecibo’s future.

The 305-meter radio observatory dish at Arecibo, owned by the National Science Foundation, collapsed last year.  Primarily used by astronomers, NASA also used it to characterize asteroids once their orbits were known.

On a different note, Brown was asked if the T&I committee might take a closer look at the FAA’s regulation of private human spaceflight now that such flights are imminent.  Historically the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has had oversight of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, but at the end of 2018 when it was clear Democrats would take control of the House, the committee’s incoming chairman, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), led the effort to defeat the Space Frontier Act.  His objections were related to issues about integrating space launches into the national airspace system, but were viewed as a bellwether of his committee asserting authority over FAA’s commercial space activities.  House T&I oversees the Department of Transportation and the FAA overall.

After joking about the possibility of congressional delegations getting trips to space, Brown agreed this was an area the committee likely would pursue.

We need to make sure that regulators are working closely with industry to support and promote, not to hinder, but certainly to ensure that safety will always be a part of the planning process.

He added that will have to wait until after the House deals with Biden’s infrastructure package, though.

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