During last month's debate on the FY 2007 Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations bill, House Members had two opportunities to shift NASA funding. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) offered an amendment to prohibit funding to be used for a manned mission to Mars. That amendment was rejected: 145 yes to 274 no votes. Later, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) offered an amendment to take $477 million in the bill for exploration systems in the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account and shift it to a community-based policing program. This amendment was defeated 185-236.
There was discussion that the Frank amendment would have unintended consequences. The Weiner amendment offers a more unambiguous debate about the merits of NASA funding and the hiring of more police officers. Selections from this debate follow, with paragraphs combined (//) in the interest of space:
REP. WEINER: "I offer this amendment with Mr. Ramstad and other Members of this body. It is very simple. It takes perhaps the single most important anticrime program of the 1990s and the early part of this decade, the COPS program, and restores the hiring component, which is the portion of the program that puts cops on the beat. // It has been zeroed out in this budget. We are not going to restore it completely to its authorized level, but we at least are trying to put a little more funding in that would allow us to hire about 6,500 additional cops." // "The offset that we seek is in the space exploration, the Mars program. We do not zero it out by any stretch of the imagination. We still ensure a large increase in it, about a 10 percent increase."
REP. FRANK WOLF (R-VA, chairman of the House Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee): "I rise in very, very, very, very strong opposition to the gentleman's amendment. // The COPS Program is already $468 million over the request, $57 million over last year. The amendment proposes reductions to NASA that are devastating. If you are opposed to the space program or you do not like the space program or you do not want America to be number one, you ought to support this amendment. // But if you want America to have a strong space program, you ought to strongly defeat this amendment."
REP. TOM FEENEY (R-FL): "The Weiner amendment would take $477 million from NASA's space exploration budget, essentially would cripple the CEV-CLV program. // Ladies and gentlemen, just so you know what that means, we are scheduled to fly our last shuttle mission in the year 2010. We have a bird on the pad. We hope we get it up July 1 or sometime soon. But we will be down for sure by 2010. We will have no manned space flight program after that unless we continue with the CEV development. This amendment basically wipes out that development in this budget cycle. // I will tell you we need a next generation of vehicles or we will not be in the human space flight business. The Weiner amendment raids the account that is necessary to keep the workforce in place. // If you allow the workforce to disappear from 2010 to, say, 2015 or 2020, you can never replace these people. The expertise that you lose cannot be put back together again. Once Humpty Dumpty and the skilled workforce is dead and depleted, you can never put it back together."
"But I am not here just to talk about America's space program. I want to tell my colleagues about a firsthand experience I had. If you are not concerned about space, you ought to be. // I was the first American, along with our colleagues [Rep.] Rick Larsen and [Rep.] Mark Kirk, invited to see the Chinese human space flight program. They got started in 1995. They are 35 years behind us in time, but they are remarkable in how fast they have caught up in their human space flight program. // The Shenzhou vehicle has flown five times now, twice with Taikonauts that have come back successfully, and they have had extraordinary success. While our workforce is basically keeping healthy a 40-year-old, 30-year-old technology, the young Chinese engineers have put together a remarkable new technology that will be very, very powerful in the future. // Mr. Chairman, I want to read the Chinese announcement of their own human space flight program. They say, by 2007, there will be a series of unmanned satellites from the year 2007 through 2015. Starting in 2017, they expect to have unmanned missions to the Moon to bring back lunar samples. By the year 2024, they say they will have landed men and women on the Moon.
"Folks, I think their real schedule is much more ambitious than that. If and when we get back to the Moon under the Weiner amendment, we will be looking at Chinese flags and maybe Chinese bases when we get there. // And if that does not stimulate your competitive interests, I am telling you that they are producing 5 to 600,000 engineers a year, by a factor of 8 or 10 what America is able to produce. Nothing stimulates our math and science brains in middle and high schools more than space exploration. The Weiner amendment would put an end to that. // Finally, I will tell you if you are not worried about human space, China is developing the Long March 5 vehicle. It will be able to take 25 tons into orbit. It is not just their human space capabilities that they are working on. They are trying to get space predominance so that they can potentially incapacitate all of our communications satellite and all of the satellites that America depends on for our force multipliers that allow our military to be the most capable in the world. // Ladies and gentlemen, please do not gut the human space component of America's exploration; and, if you do, be prepared for what happens when the Chinese beat us to outer space."
REP. ALAN MOLLOHAN (D-WV, Ranking Member of the appropriations subcommittee): "I rise in opposition to the amendment not because I not recognize that we need lots of additional dollars in law enforcement and particularly to support our State and local law enforcement, as we have talked about a number of times on the floor today and throughout this session. // This administration made a point of cutting local law enforcement, and it is a travesty because the demand is out there, and there is this real correlation between the reduction in Federal support to State and local law enforcement and an increase in violent crime rates. It is there. We can see it. That is why the gentleman is offering his amendment. // But the bottom line is, we do not have the allocation [of funding for this appropriations bill], and this offset is terrible. I mean, we are trying to keep these programs alive throughout the bill.
"The President came forward with a budget that devastated what in the NASA budget? Science. What else? Aeronautics. Well, this amendment would cut an additional, as I understand it, $100 million from NASA. Science, aeronautics would be further cut. These programs cannot survive in NASA with these kinds of cuts. We cannot do it. // We need to restore additional money to law enforcement. There is no question about that. That is a debate that maybe will go beyond this Congress; maybe it will go beyond this appropriation bill, and perhaps that debate should be had across the land. But right now, given the money that we have in the bill, we cannot afford the offset for funding the COPS program or any other State and local law enforcement, and is that not a sad comment?"
REP. WEINER: "first of all, let me just acknowledge that I agree with much of what the gentleman [Rep. Mollohan] says, except the part about us gutting anything. // What we did is we took the space exploration program and limited the increase to 10 percent. We by no means cut it to last year's level. We by no means slashed it to the bone. What we did is we took a program that grew the most and said, we are going go allow it to grow only 10 percent in the alternative." // "So the offset admittedly is not ideal. I think you and the gentleman from Virginia [Rep. Wolf] do yeoman's duty each year trying to squeeze more and more into a smaller bag."
REP. SHEILA JACKSON-LEE (D-TX): "Mr. Weiner knows that I have voted with him consistently on the COPS program and, of course, am chagrined to stand here to argue against a program that is so vital, but Mr. Mollohan is correct. // These are tough decisions that have to be made, and the decision that has to be made is whether we want to remain competitive in science and technology, and we have to cut the science programs. It is a bad budget that we have to operate under, but frankly, in the shadow of a pending launch and the commitment to remain at the cutting edge of science that generates out of exploration and technology and science that comes under this particular funding, we are losing ground."
REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI, Ranking Member of the full House Appropriations Committee): "Some people attack Members of Congress for having Potomac fever. I think some Members of this House have Mars fever. The fact is, if we are going to make a choice about where to put the best money, right now, I think a far better bet is law enforcement."
REP JIM RAMSTAD (R-MN): "I think it is simply wrong to shortchange public policy, and I understand the dilemma faced by the appropriators, believe me. This amendment, the Weiner-Ramstad amendment, would fund the COPS program at its fully authorized level by adding about $476 million for the program. // I understand how painful that offset is to many of you who prioritize NASA, but I think we have to ask ourselves, all of us, the simple question: What is more important, spending more money to fly to Mars or keeping millions of Americans safe here on earth? That is the key question."
REP. DAVE WELDON (R-FL): "I rise in strong opposition to this amendment, and it is not exactly correct to say this is just going to cut money from the Moon and Mars. We have a program underway to develop a safer, less expensive, more reliable vehicle than the space shuttle, and that is called the crew exploration vehicle. If this amendment goes through, it is going to delay that program; it is going to run up the costs, and it is going to create a situation where we are going to have no way to get men and women into space."
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): "I also am a very strong supporter of the COPS program . . . But robbing one vital program to support another is not the answer. // Representing Southern California, the home of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, I have seen the tremendous space science that has come out of our robotic exploration of Mars and out of the entire space program. This has manifest itself in health technology and telecommunications technology. It has had tremendous benefits to all of our constituents. // I don't want to see that research go away. I don't want to see that space science go away. And already there are dramatic cuts and delays in some of the space sciences that we just cannot afford. We have to find a different way to fund the COPS program. Taking the money out of this vital NASA effort is not the answer, and I must oppose the amendment."
REP. WEINER: ". . . first of all, let me say that I disagree with very little of what has been said on both sides. I think the chairman [Wolf] and ranking member [Mollohan] have done a remarkable job balancing the equities, but it is simply not fair that the COPS program gets zero. // To keep saying that State and local enforcement has got additional funds, let us not forget that we authorized the COPS program at $1 billion. This amendment doesn't seek to fund it at that level, but it seeks to put some money in. // And if you think we are going to lose the edge in space exploration because have the audacity to give it a 10 percent increase this year, I just disagree. It is a matter of trying to find a way that we can do both."
The House voted down the Weiner amendment; see http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2006/roll341.xml for the roll call vote.
The roll call vote for the unsuccessful Frank amendment may be viewed at http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2006/roll339.xml