House Passes FY2015 CJS Appropriations Bill Funding NASA and NOAA

House Passes FY2015 CJS Appropriations Bill Funding NASA and NOAA

After two days of debate, the House passed the FY2015 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill, which funds NASA and NOAA, at 1:15 am EDT this morning (May 30).  The vote was 321-87.  Two amendments were adopted that affect NASA, but not the total amount of money allocated to the agency.  No amendments specifically directed at NOAA’s satellite programs were offered.

The House Appropriations Committee recommended a total of $51.2 billion for all of the agencies covered by the bill (H.R. 4660), one percent less than last year, but two percent more than the President requested.

For NASA, the committee recommended $17.896 billion, an increase of $435 million above the President’s request of $17.461 billion.  For NOAA’s satellite programs, the committee recommended $2.03 billion, compared to the $2.06 billion request.

One amendment that was adopted by voice vote was offered by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and shifts $7 million from NASA’s Space Operations account into Space Technology.  Kaptur represents a district near NASA’s Glenn Research Center.   The appropriations committee cut the request for Space Technology from $705.5 million to $620 million.  The addition of $7 million is a modest gain, but a gain is a gain.  What will be impacted in the Space Operations line is another question.  That account funds the International Space Station (including payments to Russia and U.S. companies for crew and cargo transportation services) and Space and Flight Support (such as the TDRSS tracking and data relay satellites and purchasing launch services).

An amendment by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) was adopted by voice vote that prohibits any spending for NASA’s Advanced Food Technology program, which is developing food for crews traveling to Mars.  Perry argued that there are no plans to go to Mars so this is not a wise use of federal funds.

Four other NASA-related amendments were defeated, three by voice vote and one by recorded vote. 

  • Kildee (D-MI), reduce NASA’s Exploration account by $10 million and shift the funds to the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center: defeated by voice vote.
  • Kildee (D-WA), reduce NASA’s Exploration account by $15 million and shift the funds to Violent Crime Reduction Partnership Program: defeated by voice vote.
  • Cicilline (D-RI), reduce NASA’s Construction account by $8.5 million and shift the funds to Safe Neighborhoods Program (crime prevention): defeated 196-212.
  • Kilmer (D-WA), reduce NASA’s Aeronautics account by $2 million and shift the funds to Economic High Tech and Cyber Crime Prevention Program: defeated by voice vote.

CJS committee chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) and ranking member Chaka Fattah (D-PA) opposed all of them because they would have cut NASA funding, not because they disagreed with the alternative priorities advocated by the amendments’ sponsors.  On the two amendments that would have reduced funding for NASA’s Exploration account, Rep. Wolf argued strongly that the cuts would impact the commercial crew program and lengthen U.S. reliance on Russia.  The amendments did not, in fact, target the commercial crew program specifically; they were cuts to the Exploration account generally.  Wolf was probably telegraphing where he would take the cuts within that account if he had to.  He is a strong advocate of the Space Launch System and Orion programs that make up the majority of the funding in that account.

Two other amendments would have affected NASA, though they were not directed specifically at the agency.  Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) offered an amendment that would have prohibited spending funds on any program that was not authorized in law.  Fattah pointed out that NASA is not authorized (its authorization bill expired at the end of FY2013 and a new bill has not yet passed) and that would mean that International Space Station operations could not continue, for example.   Hudson then withdrew the amendment.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) offered an amendment that would have imposed a one percent across-the-board cut for all agencies in the bill except the FBI, which was exempted.  The amendment was defeated 148-253.

A roster of all the amendments and their disposition, with links to the texts of the amendments, is on the House Republican Cloakroom website.

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