Rules Committee Nixes $2.6 Billion Plus Up for NASA, Other Amendments Advance

Rules Committee Nixes $2.6 Billion Plus Up for NASA, Other Amendments Advance

The House Rules Committee today nixed a proposed amendment to the FY2021 funding bill for NASA that would have added $2.6 billion more than approved by the House Appropriations Committee. It did allow other civil space-related amendments to advance for floor consideration, including one to elevate the Office of Space Commerce to the Secretary of Commerce’s office, and another to increase funding for FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

The Rules Committee approved the rule governing floor consideration of H.R. 7617, a “minibus” of seven appropriations bills including Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science (which includes NASA and NOAA), and Transportation-HUD (including FAA).

Only amendments approved by the committee may be brought up during floor debate.

The rule itself must be approved by the House. It will be considered tomorrow. Debate on the bill itself likely begins Thursday.

A number of amendments of special interest were proposed to the NASA and NOAA sections of the CJS bill (Division B) and the FAA section of the THUD bill (Division G).

The one garnering most attention was to increase NASA’s budget by $2.6 billion over the amount approved by the House Appropriations Committee. The committee kept NASA at its FY2020 funding level of $22.6 billion. The Trump Administration’s request was a 12 percent increase, $25.2 billion, to pay for the Artemis program to put astronauts back on the Moon by 2024, the end of a second Trump term if he wins reelection. The committee supports human exploration of the Moon, but not on that accelerated schedule.

The Artemis Human Landing Systems (HLS) were particularly hard hit by the committee’s recommendation, receiving only $628 million of the $3.4 billion requested.

The amendment’s bipartisan sponsors — Perlmutter, Brooks, Beyer, Crist, Stevens, Foster, Weber, and Posey — did not propose any offsetting reductions elsewhere in the bill, however. That usually dooms any amendment and it was no different this time.

Another amendment that did not make it was proposed by Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) to prohibit using money to fund the development of Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) that are not majority-designed, majority-developed, and majority-manufactured in the United States. The committee bill instead “strongly encourages” NASA to do that.

Amendments of special interest that were approved for floor consideration include:

  • Lowenthal/Palazzo/Soto: move $30 million within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) to “compliment report language enhancing the small satellite mission launch services.”
  • Soto/Kirkpatrick: move $40 million within NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division (PSD) to add funding for the Near Earth Object Surveillance Mission (NEOSM).
  • Babin: move $4.1 million from NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce (OSC) and Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) to the Department of Commerce’s Departmental Management account, effectively elevating them to the Office of the Secretary of Commerce and increasing funding by $500,000 for the two combined over the amount approved by the House Appropriations Committee.
  • Spano: increase funding for FAA/AST to $38.5 million compared to the committee-approved amount of $27.6 million.

Even if they win House approval, that is but one step along the lengthy appropriations path. The Senate has not acted on any of its bills. The expectation is that a Continuing Resolution will keep the government operating from October 1, when FY2021 begins, at least until after the election and perhaps into next year.

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