House Passes New Short Term CR

House Passes New Short Term CR

The House passed a new short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) today to keep the government operating through December 18. The current CR expires on Friday. The legislation (H. J. Res. 101) is short, simply changing the expiration date of the current CR. Its future in the Senate is unclear, however.

All 42 Republican Senators have vowed to filibuster any legislation until the government is funded and the Bush-era tax cuts are extended for everyone. The latter is a major source of contention with the President, who wants to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, but not the wealthy.

Another wrinkle may be Senator David Vitter’s (R-LA) comment today at a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing that he wants language in the next CR relieving NASA of a prohibition in the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act against terminating the Constellation program or initiating a replacement. The current language is complicating NASA’s ability to implement the 2010 NASA Authorization Act signed into law in October.

Senator Vitter wanted to know if the Administrationn has conveyed to congressional appropriators that getting the prohibition lifted is a high priority for the President. He added that he would view it as a test of the President’s commitment to implementing the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. Insisting on adding such language could complicate passage of the new CR, however.

The hearing revealed that key Senators on both sides of the aisle remain skeptical about the Obama Administration’s commitment to following the Act. Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren and NASA Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson repeatedly assured the Senators that they are very happy with the law and intend to follow it as long as Congress provides them with a FY2011 budget that is close to the President’s request of $19 billion. If Congress were to roll the agency back to its FY2008 funding level of $17.4 billion, however, it is not clear how NASA would cope. Some Republicans are calling for all federal agencies to be cut back to their FY2008 levels in order to reduce the deficit.

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