The White House has threatened to veto a spending bill that would deny NASA the funding it is counting on to get started on a new space exploration agenda next year.
The veto threat was issued after the House Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to cut President Bush’s 2005 budget request for NASA by $1.1 billion, a move that would leave the space agency with $229 million less than it has this year.
The director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Josh Bolton, wrote the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, informing him that the cuts imposed on NASA were unacceptable and would be reason for the president’s senior advisors to recommend a veto.
Bush is asking Congress for $16.2 billion for NASA for 2005, a 5.6 percent increase over NASA's 2004 budget. House appropriators approved a 2005 budget of just $15.1 billion.
Although the bill would fully fund NASA's request for the space shuttle and Mars exploration programs, NASA's proposed Crew Exploration Vehicle and the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter programs would have to make do with significantly smaller budgets for the year ahead.
House appropriators, in approving the cuts, said they are supportive of the space exploration vision espoused by Bush, but do not have the money this year to give NASA such a large budget increase.
The Senate has yet to take up the 2005 NASA budget and is not expected to do so until Congress returns from a six-week recess in September.
Meanwhile, a NASA authorization bill scheduled for markup in the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday was pulled from consideration by the committee's chairman and one of the bill's sponsors, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain said that there was not enough time in Thursday's busy markup session to give full consideration to the NASA legislation.
McCain said the committee would take up the bill in September.