New CR Funds Government Through April 28, Protects SLS/Orion and JPSS

New CR Funds Government Through April 28, Protects SLS/Orion and JPSS

The House Appropriations Committee released the new Continuing Resolution (CR) tonight that will keep the government operating after Friday, when the existing CR expires.  The new CR will fund the government through April 28, 2017.  Generally activities are funded at their current (FY2016) levels, but there are a number of exceptions, including for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion exploration programs and NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS).  Congress must pass and the President must sign the bill before midnight Friday.

Congressional Republicans decided to punt on FY2017 appropriations after the elections gave them control not only of Congress, but the White House as well.  By delaying action, the new Trump Administration will have a say in funding for FY2017 as well as FY2018 and beyond.

CRs typically fund activities at their existing levels, but exceptions can be made for ongoing or new programs.   In this case, among the new activities are additional funding for the military to fight foreign wars (“Overseas Contingency Operations”), natural disaster relief, funds for communities affected by contaminated drinking water, and funding for the 21st Century CURES Act (medical research and associated activities).

Fourteen ongoing programs were singled out for special treatment ranging from the Ohio Class Submarine Replacement program to the continuation of FAA air travel operations and safety activities to health care benefits for miners. 

Included in the 14 is NASA’s deep space human exploration program — SLS, Orion, and associated ground systems.  A committee press release says the action was taken “to avoid delays that would increase long-term costs.”  The bill states that funds for NASA’s exploration account “may be apportioned up to the rate of operations necessary to maintain the planned launch capability schedules” for SLS, Exploration Ground Systems, and Orion. The first SLS/Orion launch — without a crew — is currently scheduled for no later than November 2018.

Another exception is NOAA’s JPSS.  That was made to ensure “the continuation of data for weather warnings, including forecasts of extreme weather events.”  The bill allows that funds for JPSS “may be apportioned up to the rate for operations necessary to maintain the planned launch schedules” for JPSS.   Until recently, the launch of JPSS-1 was expected in March 2017, but NOAA’s website now states that it will be in the 4th quarter of FY2017. 

The House is using the Senate amendment to H.R. 2028, the FY2016 (yes, FY2016) Energy and Water Appropriations Act, as the legislative vehicle for this CR — formally the Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), who has long (and fruitlessly) advocated for a return to “regular order” where each of the 12 regular appropriations bills is passed individually in time for the beginning of each new fiscal year, called the new CR “a band aid, but a critical one” that will give the next Congress time to complete the annual appropriations process.  This is his last year as chairman of the committee because of a 6-year term limit applied to such positions.  Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will chair the committee in the next Congress.  Rogers reportedly is hoping to be appointed chairman of the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

The House Rules Committee will meet tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 pm ET to write the rule for consideration of this bill on the House floor.  It could be brought to the floor for a vote anytime thereafter.  It then must pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama.

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