Recent Developments: Appropriations, NSF Nomination, Senate COMPETES, Space Policy

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Publication date: 
23 June 2010

FY 2011 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill:

The first funding bill to move will be the FY 2011 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.  Chairman Peter Visclosky (D-IN) and his colleagues on the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee will mark up its version of this bill tomorrow afternoon. The Administration requested a 6.8 percent budget increase for the Department of Energy.   The budget for the Office of Science would increase by a requested 4.4 percent and the National Nuclear Security Administration by 13.4 percent.   These increases are set against a backdrop of an FY 2011 Administration request for overall flat funding for almost all categories of discretionary spending, and a significant requested cut in Army Corps of Engineers funding.  Typically the full Appropriations Committee meets to consider a bill one week after a subcommittee acts, at which time a report is issued with specific program funding recommendations.

FY 2011 Appropriations Outlook:

Congressional action on the Administration’s FY 2011 budget request has slowed because of continuing disagreements over projected spending for the next five years.  In April, the Senate Budget Committee approved its version of a budget planning tool - the FY2011 Senate Budget Resolution - although it was not brought before the full Senate.  Yesterday House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said the House will soon act on a one-year measure that will not be in the form of a budget resolution, drawing swift criticism from House Republicans.  Having a total discretionary spending cap in place, expected to be at the same level as that in the Senate measure, will allow the appropriations bills to move.  A House appropriations subcommittee will mark up the FY 2011 Homeland Security bill on Friday.  The outlook for the FY 2011 bills is very uncertain.   There are deep divisions between the parties, an election this fall, and limited floor time.  Hoyer said Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) will likely decide the schedule for when appropriations bills come before the full House.  Hoyer predicted that a continuing resolution and an omnibus funding bill will eventually be needed to complete the FY 2011 appropriations cycle, which is expected to occur well beyond the October 1 start of the new fiscal year.

Nomination of New National Science Foundation Director:

Earlier this month President Obama nominated Subra Suresh to be the next director of the National Science Foundation.  Suresh is the Dean of the School of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  The nomination was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions that is chaired by Tom Harkin (D-IA); Michael Enzi (R-WY) is the Ranking Member.  A hearing has not been scheduled.


It now appears that the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will mark up its version of an America COMPETES reauthorization bill in mid-July.  The committee is chaired by Jay Rockefeller (D-WV); Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is the Ranking Member.  The Senate bill is expected to be much shorter than the 282-page House-passed bill.

NASA Space Policy:

Sixty-two Democratic and Republican representatives sent a letter to President Obama yesterday that suggests a new willingness to compromise on the Administration’s proposed space policy that would entail the cancellation of the Constellation Program.  In his mid-April remarks at the Kennedy Space Center, Obama said “we will finalize a [heavy-lift] rocket design no later than 2015.”  The congressional letter states “We support the immediate development and production of a heavy-lift launch vehicle that, in conjunction with the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, may be used for either lunar or deep-space exploration to an asteroid and beyond, as you said in Florida.”  Citing the impact this would have to “inspire our youth, invigorate our workforce and protect many jobs,” the letter concludes “we look forward to working with you in the coming weeks to make the necessary changes in order to support an exploration program that continues our elite astronaut corps, preserves an irreplaceable workforce, protects our defense industrial base and ensures that the U.S. will leave low-earth orbit within the decade.”Among those signing this letter were three Members of the House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee: Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) who has expressed misgivings about the new policy; and Ranking Member Frank Wolf (R-VA) and John Culberson (R-TX) who heavily criticized it ( .)  Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) headed this effort, and a release today describing this letter used the phrase “compromise principles.”  A list of the signatories can be viewed here.