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Casey DreierJune 2, 2015

[Upated] House of Representatives Voting on NASA's 2016 Budget Today

Update: Here is a frequently-updated list of amendments (and if they pass) as the bill is debated on the floor.

The House of Representatives is having a full vote on H.R. 2578, the appropriations bill that would provide funding in 2016 for NASA and a variety of other agencies. It provides a fantastic $1.56 billion for NASA's Planetary Science Division, which would restore the program to its historical levels of funding. The debate will likely last through June 3rd, and you can watch it live here.

The bill is generally very good for NASA, especially considering the strict spending limits imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. It would provide $18.5 billion—the same as requested by the President—but shift money around internally. More details are in a previous post, but overall, money was added to the Space Launch System, Planetary Science (and Europa), and Astrophysics. This was offset by reductions to Commercial Crew, Earth Science, and Space Technology development.

The bill will be considered under an "open rule" which means amendments can be submitted with little notice from any Representative in the House. These amendments tend to shift money around between agencies, and there will likely be some attempts to take money from NASA and make additional shifts within the agency:

Propsd amdnts to CJS approps incl: add $380m to NOAA (presumably for Polar Follow On); and cut NASA Sci $103.7m while adding $67m for Orion.

— Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline) June 2, 2015

For an amendment to pass, it must receive a majority of votes from the entire House of Representatives.

Assuming this bill passes the House (which is likely), it must be combined with its sister bill in the Senate, which has yet to take up this legislation.

Also worth noting is that the White House would likely veto any bill that passes both the Senate and House, not just because of the cuts to Commercial Crew and Earth Science, but because it adheres to the overall spending caps imposed by sequestration. So this is an important step, and a good demonstration of support for planetary exploration, but we're a long way from having a final NASA budget for 2016.

Update 8:35 pm EDT: No amendments were offered for NASA, even the ones that were published in advance.

Reading Clerk is on to NSF now, so no amendments offered to NASA section.

— Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline) June 3, 2015

From some of the discussion earlier today, it sounds like those in House criticizing NASA funding want to work out deal in conference.

— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) June 3, 2015

Conference refers to the conference committee that works out the differences between the Senate and House versions of a bill. That would come later this year, likely in the fall.

Update 2015-06-03 4:30pm EDT:

After voting down an amendment from Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), which would have applied an additional 2.48% reduction to every federal agency covered in this spending bill, the House passed H.R. 2578. Action now moves on to the Senate, which has yet to publicly reveal details on their spending bill. The White House has threatened to veto this bill.

Read more: Space Policy, FY2016 NASA Budget

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Casey Dreier

Director of Space Policy for The Planetary Society
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