House CR Cuts NASA, Prevents Cooperation with China, Allows Constellation to be Terminated

House CR Cuts NASA, Prevents Cooperation with China, Allows Constellation to be Terminated

The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the next Continuing Resolution (CR) does more than cut NASA’s budget. It prohibits spending money on anything that would lead to space cooperation with China, and releases NASA from the prohibition against cancelling the Constellation program that was in an earlier appropriations bill.

The cuts to NASA are shown in a new Fact Sheet that will track NASA’s FY2011 appropriations as they continue to be considered in the 112th Congress. An earlier version of the House Appropriations Committee’s recommendations, released last Wednesday, called for cutting NASA $379 million from its FY2011 request as part of an overall $74 billion cut to federal spending for FY2011. Conservative “Tea Party” Republicans rejected the committee’s recommendations because they had pledged a $100 billion cut during their campaigns. The committee members regrouped and on Friday issued their revised recommendations that total $100 billion.

The reduction is to the FY2011 President’s request for government spending, but the bill introduced by the appropriations committee, H.R. 1, uses FY2010 spending as its baseline. When reading the bill, one must compare its budget recommendations with what is in the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-117), not the President’s FY2011 request. NASA would be cut $303 million compared to its 2010 spending level, but $578.7 million from the FY2011 request. Details are in our fact sheet.

The committee’s bill also prohibits spending any funds appropriated for NASA or the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for space cooperation with China unless specifically authorized by Congress. The exact language is —

SEC. 1339. (a) None of the funds made available by this division may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate in anyway with China or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this division.

(b) The limitation in subsection (a) shall also apply to any funds used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations subcommittee, is a long standing opponent of U.S. cooperation with China on space activities.

Separately, the bill would relieve NASA of the prohibition in the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act against cancelling the Constellation program or initiating a replacement program. NASA currently is caught between that law and the 2010 NASA Authorization Act (P.L. 111-267), which directs NASA to proceed with a different program.

NASA and all other government agencies are currently funded, most at their FY2010 levels, by a CR that expires on March 4. Congress must pass another appropriations bill before then or the government will shut down. The Senate has reacted cooly to the House-proposed cuts, and talk about passing another short-term CR to give the House and Senate time to reach a compromise is growing. Both chambers will be on recess during the week of February 21, so very few legislative days remain before the current CR runs out.

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