Congressional reaction to the budget request

Before NASA can “win the future”, they’ll first need to win over members of Congress. And given the reactions from some members of Congress, they’ll have their work cut out for them. Several members of Congress criticized aspects of the budget proposal, primarily because it doesn’t follow the funding levels set forth in the authorization act passed by Congress last fall, particularly for the Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), one of authors of the authorization bill, expressed his disappointment in a brief comment:

> In this time of necessary budget cuts, NASA does well compared to most other agencies. But the president’s budget does not follow the bi-partisan NASA law Congress passed late last year. The Congress will assert its priorities in the next six month.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), had a similar reaction:

> I am extremely disappointed, however, that the president chose to substantially ignore the carefully orchestrated NASA framework we developed last year. By deviating from this hard fought Congressional compromise, the president is subjecting America’s proud heritage of space exploration to another year of gridlock and drift.

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) criticized the budget’s perceived emphasis on climate change research over human spaceflight and said he had a solution:

> I have a plan to preserve the human space flight budget by transferring money from NASA’s unneeded climate research programs, while keeping NASA’s overall budget at 2008 levels. Climate research is not a NASA mission and there are plenty of other agencies already doing this work. My plan is a win for America and a win for the taxpayers. I’m working with NASA allies, the House budget and spending committees and the Republican leadership to enact these priorities.

In the same release Olson also claimed that, “We fought this battle last year and won, and I believe we will do so again.”

Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), who, like Olson, signed a letter last week to House appropriators asking them to transfer climate change funds within NASA to human spaceflight, made a similar call in his own reaction to the budget:

> After the Administration let NASA flounder for the past two years, a flawed NASA authorization bill was finally agreed to and signed into law. Now the Administration is proposing to ignore this law, placing a higher priority on global warming research and making cuts to the next generation launch vehicle.

If there’s good news to this reaction, it’s that it’s relatively muted compared to the release of the FY11 budget last February. A number of members who might be expected to respond to the budget proposal haven’t done so formally (at least, not posting a press release.) For example, last year, within a hour of the FY11 budget proposal’s release, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) infamously criticized it as beginning “the death march for the future of US human space flight”. This year, his office didn’t release a statement on the budget, at least as of Monday night.


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