Making Progress: Senate Passes FY 2012 NASA, NIST, and NSF Funding Bill

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Publication date: 
2 November 2011

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Yesterday  the full Senate passed its version of the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice and Science  Appropriations Bill.  There were no  changes in the bill’s original committee language pertaining to NASA, the  National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science  Foundation.  Passage of this legislation  positions it for a conference between House and Senate appropriators to develop  a final, compromise funding bill.

Senate  leaders are anxious to move the FY 2012 appropriations bills, and yesterday’s  roll call vote and last week’s consideration of the bill on the Senate floor  avoided the bitter conflict characterizing the passage of appropriations bills  in previous years.  Much credit must be  given to this summer’s much-contested budget agreement that set a total  spending limit.  Legislators undoubtedly  are also aware of the public’s disenchantment and the market’s aversion to congressional  brinksmanship that has too often been played out on Capitol Hill.

Three  less-controversial FY 2012 funding measures that were passed by the Senate  Appropriations Committees were crafted into a single measure that is 457 pages  long.  H.R. 2112 began as an  appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture.  After Senate appropriators passed their  version of this bill, the Commerce, Justice and Science; and Transportation and  HUD funding bills were added to it.  This  “minibus” (as compared to an all-inclusive omnibus) approach will give the  Senate, their leadership predicts, a stronger hand in conferences with the  House.  The conference with House appropriators  on this bill might occur this week.

Previous  issues of FYI have summarized provisions of the House and Senate versions of  the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill regarding NASA, NIST, and  NSF.  Overall funding for the three  agencies, as compared to the current level, would change as follows:

NASA: The  House bill provides $16,810.3 million, a  decline of 8.9 percent or $1,637.7 million The  Senate bill  provides $17,938.8 million, a  decline of 2.8 percent or $509.2 million

NIST: The  House bill  provides $700.8 million, a  decline of 6.6 percent or $49.3 million The  Senate bill  provides $680.0 million, a  decline of 9.3 percent or $70.1 million

NSF: The  House bill   provides $6,859.9 million – level funding The  Senate bill  provides $6,698.1 million, a  decline of 2.4 percent or $161.8 million

In  addition to final funding levels, the conference must resolve FY 2012 funding  for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.   The House bill zeroed out funding for this project; the Senate bill  provided more money than the Administration requested.

Another  funding bill of great interest to the physics community is the FY 2012 Energy  and Water Development Appropriations bill.   Senate leaders intend to fold this bill into a second minibus with  several other funding measures, and bring it to the Senate floor in the near  future.  Funding would be continued, as  needed, for other federal department and agencies through an amendment to the  first minibus after current funding expires in about two weeks.