House and Senate Far Apart on NASA Funding Recommendations

House and Senate Far Apart on NASA Funding Recommendations

A new fact sheet shows clearly the considerable differences between the House and Senate funding figures for NASA in FY2014.

NASA’s two authorizing committees — the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee — are working on a new authorization bill for NASA.  NASA’s current authorization bill (P.L. 111-267), enacted in 2010, contains funding recommendations only through FY2013, which ends on September 30.  The other provisions of the 2010 law remain in effect until and unless they are replaced by a new law, but the funding recommendations expire.   The House SS&T Committee approved its 2013 NASA Authorization bill, H.R. 2687, last week.  (A Democratic alternative, H.R. 2616, was offered as an amendment, but defeated.)   Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) have introduced a Senate version of the bill (S. 1317).

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved their Commerce-Justice-Science bills, which include NASA.  The Senate bill and report number are S. 1329 (S. Rept. 113-78).  The House has not assigned a bill or report number yet, but the texts are available on the committee’s website.

The table in this free fact sheet compares the recommended funding levels for NASA for FY2014 in the authorization bills and appropriations bills in each chamber.   The disparity is quite obvious.  The House authorization and appropriations bills would fund NASA at a level of $16.6-$16.9 billion, significantly less than the $17.7 billion requested.  The Senate authorization and appropriation bills would fund NASA at $18.0 – $18.1 billion, slightly more than the request.

The disparity reflects strong philosophical differences between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate on how to deal with the deficit.  The House and Senate each passed a Budget Resolution, which sets the top level of spending allowed for government programs, but took completely different approaches.  Officially, the two are now supposed to find a compromise so that all of Congress is working to the same number, but that is not expected to happen.

Under the House Budget Resolution, total FY2014 government spending is held to $967 billion and defense spending is protected while larger reductions are made in other discretionary programs, like NASA.   The Senate Budget Resolution allows total FY2014 government spending of $1.058 trillion, giving Senate appropriators $91 billion more to spend. 

Thus, although progress is being made on NASA’s authorization and appropriations bills, they have a long way to go before compromise will be reached, if it can be.  As Senator Nelson said last month, he does not expect Congress to reach decisions on any budget-related legislation until it is forced to raise the debt limit, which probably will not happen until the end of the calendar year.

This fact sheet will be updated when needed.


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