House Passes CR With Further NASA Cut

House Passes CR With Further NASA Cut

The House finally completed debate on and passed H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution (CR) for the rest of FY2011, in the wee hours this morning (Saturday). For all the hundreds of amendments introduced and debated, as far as we can tell, only one directly affects NASA. We will double check the Friday-Saturday Congressional Record when it is issued to make sure nothing snuck in at the last moment, but for now, this is the best information we have.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) won approval to cut $298 million from NASA’s Cross-Agency Support account and use it to fund Community Oriented Police Services (COPS), a program in the Justice Department. NASA and the Justice Department are in the same section of the CR because they are both within the jursidiction of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee. The way the rules worked for debate on this bill, if a Member wanted to add money for something, the “offset” had to be in the same part of the bill.

Rep. Weiner was apologetic about taking it from NASA. On February 15 (Congressional Record, page H 891), he said:

Now, do I like the idea we have to take it from NASA space exploration? I don’t know any of the crime statistics on Mars, and I’m interested, but it’s a bad choice. If any of you like space exploration, so do I. In a way, I’m playing the game too. I’m taking from one place to give to another. But I do believe it’s in the interest of all of us to try to set these priorities straight. … So I hope you support the Weiner amendment by taking from Mars and putting it in the streets of your district.”

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the CJS subcommittee, opposed the amendment, but it passed 228-203. The money was not taken from Mars exploration as Rep. Weiner’s comments suggested. It was taken from Cross Agency Support, which funds Center Management and Operations, Agency Management and Operations, and Institutional Investments.

The appropriations committee already had cut NASA $303 million below its FY2010 appropriated level. With the $298 million cut in the Weiner amendment, NASA would be cut $601 million from its FY2010 appropriation, giving the agency a total of $18.123 billion for FY2011. Compared with President Obama’s request of $19.000 billion for NASA in FY2011, it is a $877 million reduction.

It is important to keep the fiscal years straight in this complicated budget debate. Many press reports say that the House voted to cut in total about $60 billion from federal spending, far less than the $100 billion Tea Party Republicans promised in their campaigns. That is correct. However, it is also correct to say that it is a $100 billion cut if the baseline is the President’s request for FY2011, which is what the House Appropriations Committee says. (Added to the complexity in following the debate is that President Obama submitted his request for FY2012 on Monday; congressional hearings have begun on that request.)

Whatever number one wishes to use for the cut that is in the House-passed CR, it is unlikely that the Senate will agree. Such deep cuts when at least five months of the fiscal year will have expired by the time anything is signed into law significantly magnifies the impact, and many Senators have indicated they are not willing to go that far.

The House and Senate are in recess next week while Members and Senators return home to face their constituents and see how all of this is playing in the rest of America. When they return to Washington, they will have one week to reach a compromise or pass another temporary spending bill. Without some sort of appropriations bill passed by midnight on March 4, the government will shut down. The Congressional Research Service has a handy report on government shutdowns that is available via the Federation of American Scientists website.

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