On September 9, the House Science Committee adopted its piece of a big-budget reconciliation funding measure, with no major modifications to NASA programs. Following a day of deliberation, the whole committee voted 21-17 to move its section of the bill, granting $45.51 billion to agencies under its control, such as NASA, the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The NASA provisions of the bill were unaffected by the final version of the law, with the exception of one amendment, which was adopted on a voice vote and directed NASA to include a study on “sustainable aviation biofuels” as part of a climate change aspect of its financing. NASA would receive almost $4.4 billion in extra money under the measure, with $4 billion sets out for infrastructure enhancements. $388 million would be allocated to climate change programs, and $7 million would be allocated to NASA cybersecurity.
However, the bill did not include any financing for NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, including lunar landers’ building. This spring, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson testified to Congress that he was asking $5.4 billion to cover the second Human Landing System contract and a similar amount to upgrade aging NASA facilities.
Republican committee members presented several amendments to make more fundamental changes to the bill. One, proposed by a ranking member of space subcommittee Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), would have integrated infrastructure and climate change money into a unified allocation for utilization in infrastructure and exploration.
At the markup, Babin remarked, “My amendment will provide NASA the flexibility it requires to meet the goals specified by Congress.” “It astonishes me that NASA’s human exploration mission would be overlooked in a bill worth more than $3.5 trillion, of which an amount valued at $45.5 billion is under the committee’s jurisdiction.”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter ((D-Colo.) stated, “Normally, Dr Babin and I are 100 percent in accord on topics relating to NASA.” However, he contended that the entire $4 billion was required for NASA facility maintenance. “I would want to see more money spent toward our space exploration, and I will strive to advocate for it, but we need a strong infrastructure first.”
Babin’s petition, like others addressing NASA funding, was defeated in a mostly partisan vote. Another amendment that would have directed some of the NOAA cash slated for a prospective space weather satellite to the commercial data purchases failed as well. Republicans oppose the bill’s science elements as well as the overall reconciliation package. According to ranking member Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma), the exclusion of funds for human exploration demonstrates “how disorganized this bill is.”
Even the full committee’s chair, U.S. representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), raised doubts about the bill. “Budget reconciliation is a political and difficult process by its very nature. This process is not likely to please my Republican colleagues. “To be honest, I’m not thrilled with all of the components of this process,” she admitted.