House Appropriators Report CJS Bill, Floor Debate Scheduled for May 8

House Appropriators Report CJS Bill, Floor Debate Scheduled for May 8

The House Appropriations Committee completed markup of the FY2013 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill that funds NASA and NOAA today and favorably reported the bill to the House.  The chairman of the committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), announced that it will be the first FY2013 appropriations bill to be debated on the House floor this year.  Debate is set to begin on May 8.

Rogers applauded the fact that the bill is proceeding through committee and floor consideration in “regular order” this year.  Last year, the appropriations process was caught up in high stakes political battles.   The CJS bill made it through full committee markup in the House and Senate, but no further.  The final numbers were negotiated behind closed doors and wrapped into a “minibus” appropriations bill that passed in November.

The appropriations committees on both sides of the Hill are trying to return to regular order this year, and the CJS bill is one of the first to move through subcommittee and full committee markup in both the House and the Senate.  Most Washington pundits still do not believe that the appropriations process will be finalized by October 1 when FY2013 begins, however.   Negotiations are still needed on many issues and the House adopted a budget resolution that gives most of its appropriations subcommittees less money to spend than their Senate counterparts. In total, the House CJS bill provides $51.1 billion for the agencies under its jurisdiction.  The House CJS subcommittee had $731 million less to spend than its Senate counterpart because the House passed a budget resolution with lower spending thresholds than agreed to last year in the Budget Control Act (BCA).  The Senate is using the BCA figures.

For civilian space activities, the biggest difference between the House and Senate is that the Senate wants to transfer NOAA’s satellite activities to NASA.

Much larger political issues loom over the entire federal spending debate, starting with the threat of a sequester beginning on January 1, 2013 if the House, Senate and White House do not reach agreement on how to avoid it.  Coupled with an expected debate over extending the Bush-era tax cuts that are due to expire at the end of this year and election year politics, the alacrity and civility in moving the CJS and some of the other appropriations bills may not stand the test of time.

Today, however, civility and regular order were the watchwords.  The House committee adopted a manager’s amendment offered by CJS subcommittee chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA).  The text of the amendment has not been posted on the committee’s website yet so whether it affects NASA or NOAA is not clear.  The committee states only that it “makes technical changes to the bill and report, as well as adjustments and additions to various non-controversial language provisions.”   Several other amendments were offered, but none was directed at NASA or at NOAA’s space activities.

One member, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), engaged in a colloquy about the need for more money to study the oceans, complaining that too much money is spent on atmospheric and space science and not enough on the oceans.  He did not offer an amendment, however.

The House bill provides NASA with $17.574 billion, which it says is $138 million below the request of $17.711 billion.   The Senate bill (S. 2323), which was marked up by the full Senate Appropriations Committee last week, provides NASA with $19.4 billion, but the increase is because it transfers NOAA’s satellites activities to NASA.  Without the transfer, the Senate committee said the bill cuts NASA’s budget by $41.5 million compared to its FY2012 enacted level.  Congress appropriated $17.800 billion to NASA for FY2012, but also included an across-the-board rescission that brought the figure down to $17.770 billion.  Thus, the Senate recommendation for NASA for FY2013 would be $17.729 billion, $155 million more than the House.  (The House committee report says that its recommendation of $17.574 billion is a $226.2 million reduction from the enacted level for FY2012, but that must not include the rescission since $17.574 billion plus $226 million is $17.8 billion.)

The House bill gives NOAA $4.962 billion, which it says is $92.877 million less than the President’s request for FY2013 ($5.1 billion), and $67.994 million above the FY2012 enacted level.    It does not call for NOAA’s satellite programs to be transferred to NASA, and fully funds NOAA’s request for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) at $916 million.   The Senate bill cuts NOAA’s request to $3.4 billion by transferring JPSS and NOAA’s other satellite programs to NASA. 


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