Minibus Appropriations on Track for Enactment by Friday

Minibus Appropriations on Track for Enactment by Friday

The “minibus” appropriations bill that includes NASA, NOAA and the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) is on track for passage by Friday when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires. Conferees reported the bill late yesterday. The House Rules Committee will consider the rule to accompany the bill (allowing for its consideration by the full House) on Wednesday at 2:00 pm EST.

The bill, H.R. 2112, combines three FY2012 appropriations bills into one: the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that includes NASA and NOAA, the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) bill that includes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Agriculture bill. Although the House never passed its own versions of the CJS or T-HUD bills — in fact, the T-HUD bill was not even reported from the House Appropriations Committee — it agreed to negotiate a final version of the FY2012 appropriations for these agencies with the Senate.

NASA, NOAA’s JPSS satellite program, and FAA’s AST fared pretty well in the conference agreement, which is published in the November 14 Congressional Record. In brief:

  • NASA will get $17.8 billion for FY2012, close to what the Senate approved ($17.9 billion). Although it is almost $1 billion less than the request ($18.7 billion), it is almost $1 billion more than the House committee approved. See our updated fact sheet for more details.
    • The James Webb Space Telescope gets the increase passed by the Senate (a total of $530 million compared to the request of $374 million) instead of being terminated as approved by the House committee
    • SLS and MPCV get increases over the request, while commercial crew gets cut by about half compared with the request
    • Space technology is cut just less than half compared with the request
  • NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System is funded at $924 million compared with the $1.07 billion request or the $901 million approved by the House committee or the $920 million approved by the Senate
  • FAA’s AST office is funded at $16.3 million, a sharp decrease from the $26.6 million request, but more than either the House committee or the Senate had approved ($13 million and $15 million respectively)

Another controversy in the CJS bill was funding for the White House Office of Science and Technolology Policy (OSTP). The House committee had approved cutting the $6.65 million request down to $3 million because of its displeasure over OSTP Director John Holdren meeting with Chinese officials after language in the FY2011 appropriations bill prohibited OSTP or NASA from spending any funds to engage with China. The conference agreement funds OSTP at $4.5 million and again includes language (sec. 539) prohibiting OSTP or NASA from engaging with China. However, this year there are exceptions to that prohibition whereby either agency can certify to Congress 14 days in advance of any such activity that it poses “no risk of resulting in the transfer of technology, data, or other information with national security or economic security implications.”

“Minibus” is a clever term used to refer to several appropriations bills — but not all 12 of them — being combined into a single piece of legislation. When all 12 are merged together, it is called an “omnibus.”

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