Senate Passes "Minibus" with CJS and T-HUD Approps

Senate Passes "Minibus" with CJS and T-HUD Approps

This afternoon the Senate passed the “minibus” appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) that combines three of the regular appropriations bills into one, including funding for NASA, NOAA and the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).

The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill includes NASA and NOAA. The Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) includes AST. The third bill in the package is Agriculture.

The vote was 69-30.

The bill now goes to the House where its future is unclear. The most recent reports indicate that the House will, in fact, accede to the Senate’s approach to the appropriations bills for FY2012, dealing with them in groups instead of combining all 12 into a single “omnibus” package. Omnibus bills have become common in recent years and initially it appeared the House preferred that method.

The House and Senate appropriations committees were fairly far apart in their recommendations for NASA. The House committee approved $16.8 billion, and, among other things, recommended terminating the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) program. The Senate approved $17.9 billion and recommended increasing JWST funding by $156 million so it could be launched in 2018 instead of years later. The President’s request for NASA was $18.7 billion, of which $374 million was for JWST.

The two also were far apart on overall funding for NOAA. The House committee approved $4.5 billion; the Senate approved $5.0 billion. The request was $5.5 billion. However, regarding the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), the two are quite close: $901 million in the House versus $920 million in the Senate, compared to the request of $1.07 billion.

The two also were fairly close in their recommendations for AST, approving about half of what the President requested. The request was $26.6 million, a significant increase from its FY2011 level of $15 million. The House committee approved $13 million, while the Senate approved $15 million.

After the House passes its bill, with whatever amendments are adopted, the two chambers will have to reach a compromise and the President will have to agree with it, so there still are several steps to go. Today’s action, however, moves the process closer to providing certainty to at least some federal agencies as to their FY2012 funding levels.

The government is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution that expires on November 18. Congress will need to pass some sort of appropriations bill(s) before then to avoid a full or partial government shutdown.

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