It took about one hour yesterday for the House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee to approve its FY 2016 bill providing funding for NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation. The 100-page bill was passed by voice vote without any amendments being offered.
This was the first bill written by new Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX). The session reaffirmed the subcommittee’s tradition of bipartisanship, with Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA) offering his warm thanks to Culberson, remarking that there “could be no improvement in the process” the subcommittee used in writing the bill. “We are pleased with the accommodations to the Minority’s concerns” said Fattah.
Culberson expressed great appreciation for the subcommittee’s $51.4 billion allocation that is 2.5 percent more than this year. Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) responded that it was “as good as we could do.” Next year’s cap on all nondefense spending set by the Budget Control Act is roughly equal to this year’s level.
The subcommittee’s bill provides $64 million more than requested for law enforcement, reflecting Culberson’s statement that it was “at the very top of our list” of priorities, citing terrorism and cyber threats. The Justice Department budget would increase $852 million over this year.
“NASA is not where it needs to be” Culberson told his colleagues, saying he intended to increase its budget in coming years. The bill provides the requested 2.8 percent or $519 million increase for the agency. Culberson spoke of the importance of getting American astronauts into space on U.S. rockets, planetary science, and committee language requiring NASA to follow decadal studies in setting its future program priorities.
The FY 2016 NSF budget would increase by $50 million to $7.4 billion, with Culberson explaining the foundation’s budget is as high as it has ever been. If more money becomes available to the subcommittee later this year, through a new budget agreement, Culberson said he would use the new funding to increase NSF’s appropriation.
Culberson also discussed NOAA’s budget, saying the bill prioritized the agency’s weather forecasting program and new satellite funding.
Fattah expressed thanks for the subcommittee’s support of neuroscience research programs, noting that 50 million Americans suffer from brain disorders. He praised the bill for fully funding the Administration’s request for new satellites, saying it was “remarkable with the allocation” the subcommittee had received. Fattah spoke of NASA as “a national imperative.” He expressed unhappiness with the bill’s appropriation for the Legal Services Corporation that assists the poor, and misgivings about funding for the Census Bureau. “You have done a lot to benefit science” Fattah told Culberson as he concluded his remarks.
Full committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) thanked Rogers and Culberson for their cooperation in drafting the bill. She criticized the Republican’s overall budget plan for making it impossible to fund programs at adequate levels. She also expressed opposition to the bill’s provisions regarding fire arms.
The bill goes to the full Appropriations Committee on May 20.