Omnibus Appropriatons Bill Clears Congress, Also Extends Third Party Indemnification

Omnibus Appropriatons Bill Clears Congress, Also Extends Third Party Indemnification

Exceeding expectations, the Senate joined the House in passing the FY2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill today.  The next stop is the White House and the President is expected to sign it.  In addition to funding the government for the rest of FY2014, it extends launch liability indemnification for three more years.

The House and Senate earlier passed a three-day extension to the Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating through Saturday with the expectation that it would take that long for the Senate to pass the Omnibus.  The House passed the Omnibus yesterday (359-67) and sent it to the Senate where action proceeded more quickly than expected.  It passed with a vote of 72-26.

The bill (H.R. 3547 as amended) also extends the FAA’s authority to indemnify commercial launch services companies from certain amounts of liability from third party claims in the event of a launch accident.  In fact, H.R. 3547 originally was the bill that passed the House to extend indemnification for one year.   The Senate amended that bill to extend indemnification for three years instead and sent it back to the House.  There, it was used as the legislative vehicle (a term used to describe a bill originally intended for one purpose, but amended to address different and/or additional issues) for the Omnibus.   In this case, extending indemnification was incorporated into the bill, adopting the Senate position of a 3-year extension — through December 31, 2016.

The bill is commonly called “the Omnibus,” but officially its title is the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014.  It provides a total of $1.012 trillion for discretionary (defense and non-defense) spending in FY2014.

NASA fared pretty well all things considered, receiving $17.65 billion compared to its $17.72 billion request, although the devil is in the details and some programs did better than others.  Congress did not approve the Obama Administration’s proposed reorganization of government STEM education programs, which would have had a significant impact on NASA’s education and public outreach activities, and said NASA had more work to do before Congress would agree to the Asteroid Redirect Mission.

Most satellite programs at NOAA also fared well, except for Jason-3 and Polar Free Flyer.

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