President Signs CR — Keeps Government Operating and Funds Disaster Relief

President Signs CR — Keeps Government Operating and Funds Disaster Relief

President Biden signed the FY2022 Continuing Resolution (CR) into law this evening after passage by the Senate and House earlier today, the last day of FY2021. The bill not only keeps the government operating through December 3, but funds disaster relief including money for NASA to recover from two hurricanes.

Waiting until the last minute as it often does, the Senate passed the CR this afternoon after removing a controversial provision to suspend the debt limit. The revised bill, H.R. 5305, then passed the House and was signed into law just before 7:30 pm ET.  Without the measure, a partial government shutdown would have begun at midnight.

Congress is dealing with the debt limit separately.

The bill funds agencies like NASA at their current (FY2021) levels until Congress passes the regular FY2022 appropriations bills. The House has passed nine so far, but none have passed the Senate.

The CR not only keeps the government operating for a few more weeks, but provides $28.6 billion for disaster relief stemming from hurricanes, wildfires and other natural diasaters, as well as $6.3 billion to help resettle evacuees from Afghanistan.

The disaster relief funding includes $321.4 million for NASA’s Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration (CECR) account for the agency to recover from 2020’s Hurricane Zeta and this year’s Hurricane Ida. Up to 15 percent of the amount may be transferred from CECR to the Exploration account “for necessary expenses related to flight hardware, tooling, production and schedule delays caused by Hurricane Ida.” In congressional appropriations, NASA’s Exploration account includes the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion spacecraft, and their associated Exploration Ground Systems.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted his appreciation.

Roof damage from Hurricane Ida at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility’s Building 103 near New Orleans, LA. Photo credit: NASA

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana on August 29 with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, where the SLS core stage is manufactured, is near New Orleans, LA.

NASA determined there was no significant structural damage, but there was signficant damage to roofing systems that allowed water intrusion into some buildings. Coupled with power outages, the facility had to be closed for several days.

The disaster relief money is secure, but government funding overall simply got a 9-week extension. The battle over FY2022 appropriations is far from over. The same is true for the two infrastructure bills, one of which currently gives NASA another $4.4 billion to fix or modernize its facilities across the country. That is part of the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill that has no Republican support and thus must rely on Democratic votes to pass, but at least two Senate Democrats —  Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) — are insisting the total be lowered substantially. How much NASA might get in the final bill is anyone’s guess.

But for the moment, it is all good news for NASA, which can open its doors as usual tomorrow morning. Two launches are coming up this month — the Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids on October 16, and the Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station whose launch date was just moved forward a day to October 30 instead of October 31.

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