In a bid to buy more time for heated budget negotiations, lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have releasedyet another temporary funding measure or continuing resolution (CR), that would support the US government for an additional week after the current one expires April 8. In a harbinger of some of the science cuts that may be around the corner, the measure includes a reduction of $139 million for NASA and $20 million from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. In total the measure would cut $6 billion from the current US budget.
The Republican-majority House and the Democrat-majority Senate remain at loggerheads over the fiscal year 2011 budget, with the House having passed $61 billion in cuts that the Senate rejected, putting forward instead a compromise bill that would cut half as much. The drastic House numbers — including a whopping 18% cut for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science — arose from a second round of cuts motivated by wanting to keep Republican budget hawks in the Tea Party on board. Even as he introduced the CR, appropriations committee chairman Hal Rogers (pictured, Republican, Kentucky) slammed Senate-majority leader Harry Reid (Democrat, Nevada) for refusing to move further towards the House level of funding. “Senator Reid is attempting to abuse the budget process and limit the ability of Appropriations negotiators to complete their work – dictating the use of gimmicks and phony accounting to sneak more spending through the Congress and by the American people,” Rogers said in a statement. In comments made the same day, Reid rejected many of the cuts as harmful, adding, “In addition to the many choices about what to cut and what to keep, the Republican Leadership has another very big choice to make: It has to decide whether it will do what the Tea Party wants it to do, or do what the country needs it to do.
The committee says the cut at NASA will come in part from phasing out the space shuttle, already slated for termination in fiscal year 2012. But it shows no awareness of an expensive problem flagged by the space agency’s inspector-general pointing out that NASA continues spending money on the George W. Bush Constellation program to go back to the moon even though the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 formally cancelled the program. This is due to the continuing resolutions extending language used in the fiscal year 2010 budget that predated the cancellation.
Update on April 6th: After budget talks at the White House failed to reach agreement April 5th, US President Barack Obama rejected the latest stopgap bill, saying it was time to move past short-term funding measures and finally pass a budget. With two days to avert a shutdown, Reid and House Speaker John Boehner (Republican, Ohio) are in talks today to try to break the impasse and another meeting at the White House remains a possibility.