House Science Committee Marks Up Space Station Authorization Bill

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Publication date: 
30 June 1995

"It tells NASA and the world that the space station is the highest
priority in terms of funding."  -- Rep. James Sensenbrenner

One day before NASA's space shuttle performed its historic link-up
in space with the Russian MIR, the House Science Committee passed
legislation authorizing funding through completion of the
international space station project.  The bill, H.R. 1601, was
debated by the committee on June 28, along with a series of other
authorization bills.

The purpose of the multi-year authorization, said Space
Subcommittee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), is to provide
stable funding for the oft-redesigned project, allowing NASA to
keep its commitments to contractors and to its international
partners.  The bill would authorize $13.141 billion for the station
over the next seven years, with completion expected in 2002.
Funding could not exceed $2.121 billion per year.

While most committee members supported the station itself, many
were concerned that it would cannibalize the remainder of NASA's
activities.  This caused a number of Democrats to oppose the
multi-year legislation, fearing that NASA's science, aeronautics
and technology programs would be forced to bear the brunt of budget
cuts over the seven years.  The Clinton Administration's plans call
for NASA to take a cut of $5 billion from its expected budget
profile over the next five years.  The House budget resolution
would require an even greater reduction.  (Numbers for the
House-Senate compromise resolution are not available yet).  Former
Science Committee Chairman George Brown (D-CA) argued that it was
"neither wise nor prudent to remove the space station from annual
review while other NASA programs are on the table." 

As he has done in previous years, station foe Tim Roemer (D-IN)
offered an amendment to cancel the program.  The station handily
survived the vote (11-33) on what Sensenbrenner called a "recurring
annual ritual."  Then, as in the June 9 subcommittee mark-up (see
FYI #77), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) offered an amendment to
predicate funding of the space station on the assurance of adequate
budgets for other space agency programs.  The amendment would
require that NASA receive at least a specified appropriation for
each year, or that the NASA administrator certify "that a balanced
space and aeronautics program has been maintained."  If these
conditions were not met, Congress would be notified, and could
reconsider funding for the space station.

Brown called the amendment "sine qua non for my support" of the
station.  However, full committee chairman Robert Walker (R-PA)
charged that the amendment would hold "a popular program hostage"
to get higher budget levels for NASA.  He said Jackson Lee was
"attempting to use broad-based support for the space station to
drive the NASA budget," and added ruefully, "I wish it could be

The Jackson Lee amendment failed, 11-30.  The space station
authorization bill was passed and sent on to the House floor, with
Brown voting against it.  No date has yet been set for
consideration by the full House, but appropriators on the VA/HUD
subcommittee are scheduled to draft their bill on July 10.