Congress Passes Massive Omnibus Appropriations, COVID Relief Bill

Congress Passes Massive Omnibus Appropriations, COVID Relief Bill

The House and Senate today passed what is reportedly the largest bill in terms of page length in the history of the country.  The 5,593 page bill combines all 12 regular FY2021 appropriations bills, a total of $1.4 trillion, and provides $900 billion in COVID relief. It also incorporates a number of other measures including the Intelligence Authorization Act.

The bill was made public only this afternoon about 2:00 pm ET, but the House passed the measure around 9:15 pm ET and the Senate followed suit just before midnight. It now must be signed into law by the President.

Congress used H.R. 133, originally the U.S.-Mexico Economic Partnership Act, as the legislative vehicle for this legislation.

Congress has passed four Continuing Resolution (CRs) to keep the government operating while working on this bill. The current CR expires at midnight tonight so the House Rule providing for consideration of the bill reportedly included a 7-day extension to give Congress time to enroll the bill, checking for typographical errors, for example, before sending it to the President.

NASA received $23.271 billion, an increase of $582 million over FY2020, but almost $2 billion less than the $25.246 billion request.  Although there is broad bipartisan support for returning humans to the Moon, the Trump Administration’s 2024 deadline garnered little support in Congress. Consequently, hardest hit was the Human Landing System (HLS) account, which received only one quarter of the request — $850 million instead of the $3.4 billion requested.  Still, that is more than HLS received in FY2020 ($600 million) underscoring that the problem is the schedule, not the goal. Earth and space science programs fared well as did the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.

The Office of Space Commerce (OSC) in the Department of Commerce got a budget boost, although Congress still did not approve moving it out of NOAA into the Secretary of Commerce’s office. It did allow the merger of OSC and NOAA’s Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) office, with a total of $10 million for the combined offices, up from a combined $4.1 million for FY2020.  It also acknowledged and endorsed OSC’s Space Traffic Management work with language directing OSC to conduct a pilot program with government agencies and industry.

Congress directed the National Science Foundation to report back within 60 days on the cause of the collapse of the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico and plans for the future.

NASA, the Department of Commerce, and NSF are all funded in the Commerce-Justice-Science portion of the bill (Division B).

In the Transportation-HUD portion (Division L), the FAA received its requested funding for commercial space transportation activities, a total of $44.4 million of which $27.6 million is for operations of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

The President is expected to sign the legislation once it is sent to him, bringing the FY2021 appropriations process to a close.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.