New House Appropriations CJS Subcommittee Chair Supports Artemis

New House Appropriations CJS Subcommittee Chair Supports Artemis

The House Appropriations Committee officially announced its new subcommittee chairs today.  Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) will take over the gavel of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee, which funds NASA, from José Serrano, who retired. Cartwright recently endorsed the Artemis program, but has been critical of the 2024 deadline in the past.

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), chair of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee.

Cartwright was the subcommittee’s Vice Chair.  A lawyer from Pennsylvania’s 8th district in the northeastern part of the state, he might not be expected to have a strong constituent interest in space programs, but NASA supports small businesses across the land especially through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, once a Congressman himself, understood the connection the agency could make with members of Congress from states and districts not usually identified with the space program and invested a lot of energy in reaching out to them.

He and Cartwright became friends as freshmen Congressman elected in 2012, though from different parties.  Cartwright was one of the House members who signed a letter in support of Bridenstine’s nomination to be NASA Administrator in 2018 when Senate Democrats opposed it.  Bridenstine was confirmed by the Senate on a party-line vote (50-49).

This past summer, they held a webinar with Cartwright’s constituents to talk about small business opportunities to support Artemis.

Cartwright said “I do strongly support NASA funding for the Artemis program because I think it ensures continuation of  American leadership in space exploration and opens up all kinds of opportunities for further scientific research.”

Three weeks earlier, however, he and other members of the CJS subcommittee decided to keep NASA funded at its FY2020 level, $22.6 billion, rather than approving the 12 percent increase requested to pay for Artemis. Cartwright was one of the few members to mention NASA and characterized the subcommittee’s recommended funding level as “robust.”

In the end, NASA received $23.3 billion for FY2021, $2 billion less than requested, but more than FY2020. Although Congress did not fund the Human Landing Systems (HLS) anywhere close to the level Bridenstine requested for FY2021, it did fund other parts of Artemis — the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, and Gateway — and allocated $850 million for HLS. That is a fair amount of money even though it was just 25 percent of the $3.4 billion requested.

Cartwright’s embrace of Artemis during the July 2020 webinar was a change from 2019 when he was one of several members reacting skeptically to a supplemental budget request from the Trump Administration after it unexpectedly accelerated the timeline for putting people back on the Moon from 2028 to 2024. He complained NASA did not even have a cost estimate for the entire effort, yet expected Congress to embrace it.

In 2018, he expressed concern about proposed cuts by the Trump Administration to NASA’s earth and space science activities especially climate programs and WFIRST (now the Roman Space Telescope).  He urged NASA to follow the Decadal Surveys produced by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

What his prior views presage now that he chairs the subcommittee remains to be seen. It is widely expected the 2024 deadline will be pushed back, perhaps to the 2028 date NASA originally planned, but Cartwright appears favorably disposed towards the agency overall.

In a statement today, he did not mention NASA, but “bringing our fair share of federal investments back” to his district.

In this position, I look forward to directing money to help our small businesses recover from the pandemic, bring home new jobs, and expand opportunities for local companies to do business with the federal government. These are challenging times, but Northeastern Pennsylvania has great potential for growth, and I am optimistic about our future.”  — Rep. Matt Cartwright

The other Democratic members of the subcommittee are Grace Meng (NY), Charlie Crist (FL), Ed Case (HI), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD), Brenda Lawrence (MI), and David Trone (MD).

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), an enthusiast for NASA programs like SLS managed at Marshall Space Flight Center, continues as the top Republican on the panel.

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