After a multi-day floor debate, the House of Representatives passed its 2015 funding bill for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies by a vote of 321-87. NASA, which is included in this bill, is provided with $17.9 billion—$435 million above the President's 2015 request and $250 million above its 2014 level. The accompanying committee report also directs the Planetary Science Division of NASA to receive a very strong $1.45 billion, nearly $185 million above the budget proposed by the President and very close to The Planetary Society's goal of $1.5 billion per year.
Marcia Smith at Space Policy Online has more details about the bill, including highlighting the four amendments that tried to take money away from NASA:
Four NASA-related amendments were defeated, three by voice vote and one by recorded vote.
- Kildee (D-MI), reduce NASA's Exploration account by $10 million and shift the funds to the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center: defeated by voice vote.
- Kildee (D-MI), reduce NASA's Exploration account by $15 million and shift the funds to Violent Crime Reduction Partnership Program: defeated by voice vote.
- Cicilline (D-RI), reduce NASA's Construction account by $8.5 million and shift the funds to Safe Neighborhoods Program (crime prevention): defeated 196-212.
- Kilmer (D-WA), reduce NASA's Aeronautics account by $2 million and shift the funds to Economic High Tech and Cyber Crime Prevention Program: defeated by voice vote.
CJS committee chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) and ranking member Chaka Fattah (D-PA) opposed all of them because they would have cut NASA funding, not because they disagreed with the alternative priorities advocated by the amendments' sponsors.
I think we can all agree with the motivations here, but we need to avoid raiding one of the few truly long-term, optimistic goals of the U.S. government.
A proposal for a 1% across the board cut to all agencies, proposed by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), was also defeated, fortunately.
The Senate has yet to release details about its proposed NASA budget for 2015, though it looks like we'll see the first draft next week. The full Senate must pass its own version of the budget and then reconcile it with the House, so there is still a ways to go, but so far things are looking quite good for Planetary Science and for NASA.
We should take a moment to appreciate what happened today. NASA got an increase (a small one, but an increase nonetheless) within the context tight fiscal policies in government. The CJS committee, led by Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA), made the NASA pie a little bigger, which supported an increase to NASA science, particularly planetary science. This is not a perfect bill (Commercial Crew receives too little funding in my opinion) but overall the House funded NASA at a stronger level than anyone predicted. It's easy to get angry at Congress for a lot of things, but we should also make sure to acknowledge when they do something good. Today is a good day for space advocates, NASA, and space science, and I hope it's the start of a trend leading into the future.
Take notes, Senate!