House CJS Subcommittee Approves FY2021 Bill, But Not Without Dissent

House CJS Subcommittee Approves FY2021 Bill, But Not Without Dissent

The House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee approved the FY2021 bill that funds NASA today, but the voice vote included some noes as Democrats and Republicans disagreed on priorities. The Democratic-led bill keeps NASA at its current funding level instead of growing it by 12 percent to pay for the Artemis program to get people back to the Moon by 2024.  NASA is only one agency funded in the bill, which also includes the Department of Justice. Democrats said their focus is policing reform and civil rights.

The bill provides level funding for NASA — $22.6 billion instead of the $25.2 billion requested.  The Human Landing Systems (HLS) needed for Artemis were particularly hard hit, getting $628 million instead of $3.37 billion requested.

Rep. José Serrano (D-New York)

No amendments were offered today, but subcommittee markup is just the first of many steps in the lengthy appropriations process.  Full committee markup is expected next week, then floor debate and a vote on the House floor.  The Senate has yet to mark up any of its appropriations bills.

CJS subcommittee chairman José Serrano (D-NY) barely mentioned NASA in his statement on the bill, pointing only to added funding for climate change research at NASA and NOAA, and for STEM education at NASA, NOAA and NSF.  Full committee chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) did not say anything about NASA.

Instead, their statements stressed the funding provided for the Department of Justice.  Serrano heralded the bill for including “major reform efforts to enhance law enforcement accountability and to better protect our civil rights.” Lowey agreed saying it “provides strong funding increases to promote civil rights and improve police practices throughout the country, including more than $500 million in federal grants for states and localities to carry out police reform initiatives.”

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama)

The markup was congenial, but the top Republicans left no doubt they consider the NASA funding, particularly for Artemis, inadequate.  Subcommittee Ranking Member Robert Aderholt (R-AL) praised the bill for providing $400 million for the Space Launch System (SLS) Exploration Upper Stage and $110 million for nuclear thermal propulsion, programs managed at Marshall Space Flight Center near his district, but also called out the bill’s “deficiency.”  The reduced funding for Artemis is a “rebuke” especially considering the “passion in the American people” for a reinvigorated space program as evidenced at the launch of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission.

As she has in the past, full committee Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) raised concern about losing leadership to China.

“The bill makes new investments in science, but only selectively. There is a significant increase for the National Science Foundation, but there is not a penny more for NASA. Specifically, the bill fails to provide adequate funding for an essential component of NASA’s Artemis Program: the human landing systems on which the first woman will travel to the surface of the moon. The inadequate amount included for landers undermines prior year investments in deep space exploration.  Flat funding for NASA reveals a deliberate effort to undercut our path toward renewed American space dominance. This is shortsighted, to say the least. Being the world leader in space will be expensive, but it won’t be nearly as costly as letting China dominate in space. For far too long, we have allowed China to challenge us, with negative implications both for our economy and our national security. — Rep. Kay Granger

The only other subcommittee member to mention NASA was Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) who characterized the NASA funding as “robust” and ensures continued U.S. leadership in space.

The bill was approved by voice vote, but several “no” votes could be heard.  Today was the last markup to be chaired by Serrano, who is retiring at the end of the Congress.  Lowey also is retiring, as are subcommittee members Martha Roby (R-AL) and Tom Graves (R-GA).

Except for Earth science, NASA funding usually is one of the issues that garners bipartisan support, but the rhetoric today indicates that may not be the case this year, for Artemis at least.

Later in the day at the Future Space 2020 webinar, Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) asserted some are opposing Artemis to thwart the Trump Administration.

I’m a little bit worried. The President has been clear. The Vice President has been clear. We want to get boots on the Moon … by 2024 and you know, I’m just being probably more candid here than some of your other [speakers], there are those that don’t want to see this Administration have that victory. — Rep. Michael Waltz

He added that for him, “that’s not a win for any Administration, that’s a win for the country and a win for global freedom…”

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