House Easily Passes First FY2024 Minibus Appropriations

House Easily Passes First FY2024 Minibus Appropriations

The House finally passed the first set of FY2024 appropriations bills today, more than five months after FY2024 began. Six of the 12 regular appropriations bills, including those that fund NASA, NOAA and the FAA, are bundled together into a single “minibus” — a smaller version of an “omnibus” appropriations bill that incorporates all 12. It still must pass the Senate and be signed into law by midnight on Friday to avoid a lapse in funding. Agreement on the other six, including DOD, is pending with a March 22 deadline.

In total, the bill provides $467.5 billion for departments and agencies in the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), Energy-Water, Interior, Milcon-VA, and Transportation-HUD (THUD) appropriations bills. NASA and NOAA are part of the CJS bill. The FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation are in THUD.

The vote in the House was 339-85, comfortably above the two-thirds vote required under suspension of the rules. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) brought the bill up on the suspension calendar because it avoids the Rules Committee, which has a majority of members from the House Freedom Caucus that opposes the bills both because they do not include many of the social policy provisions (“riders”) they sought and the spending cuts aren’t deep enough.

The cuts are plenty deep for NASA.

The agency gets $24.875 billion for FY2024, more than $2 billion less than President Biden’s $27.185 billion request. It also is half a billion less than NASA’s FY2023 funding level of $25.384 billion. Taking inflation into account, it’s a substantial reduction in purchasing power.

NASA didn’t even warrant a call-out by name by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s CJS subcommittee even though he is a long-time supporter. During floor debate today, he said only that the bill supports efforts “to counter China by supporting innovation, space exploration, and scientific research.”

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), chair of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee, speaking on the House floor March 6, 2024.

“We believe it’s important to reverse the out of control growth of the federal government and that is reflected in this agreement. The CJS bill scales back spending by holding most agencies to ’23 levels or lower. Agencies must refocus on their core missions and responsibilities. Despite limited resources, we maintain robust funding that prioritizes the fight against fentanyl, support for local law enforcement, and efforts to counter China by supporting innovation, space exploration, and scientific research. We do this while also utilizing the power of the purse to address the weaponization of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the overreach of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. To that end, the FBI and ATF will be receiving less money than last year. — Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY)

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), ranking member of the CJS subcommittee, speaking on the House floor March 6, 2024.

His Democratic counterpart, subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), said only with regard to space programs that the bill provides “strong and continued level funding for NOAA Climate Research and NASA earth science.”

The bill funds NASA’s earth science program at the same level as FY2023, $2.2 billion, but the effects of inflation reduces what that money can buy.

The bottom line is that at least NASA now knows how much money it will have for FY2024, which ends on September 30, assuming the Senate passes the bill by Friday at midnight. It is much less than requested and many adjustments will have to be made.

At NOAA, satellite programs get less than requested, but more than FY2023. The Office of Space Commerce will drop from $70 million in FY2023 to $65 million  The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation will get its requested increase from $38 million to $42 million for FY2024.

President Biden makes his State of the Union address tomorrow night and on Monday will submit his FY2025 budget request to Congress. The congressional and presidential elections in November will determine what party has control of the House, Senate, and White House. That will be a major factor in the future of funding especially for non-defense agencies like these.

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