The House of Representatives passed the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013 (H.R. 5326) on 10 May 2012. The bill would provide funding for several science agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in addition to the Departments of Commerce and Justice in fiscal year (FY) 2013. The bill passed with bipartisan support in a 247-163 vote.

NSF would receive $7.3 billion, $299 more than the current spending level. The new funding is largely directed to research, as well as education initiatives. Funding for agency operations and grant administration would remain flat. Funding is also included for the continued construction of the National Ecological Observatory Network.

Several amendments were offered on the House floor that could have negative impacts for NSF if they are included in the final version of the bill. Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) sponsored an amendment that would prohibit NSF from funding political science research. It was agreed to by a margin of only ten votes. Another amendment offered by Rep. Flake that was rejected would have cut funding for NSF by $1.2 billion. Although all Democrats and about half of Republicans opposed the amendment, several Republican members of the House Science, Technology, and Space Committee supported the proposal. A third amendment successfully offered by Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) prohibits funding for NSF’s climate change education program.

H.R. 5326 provides $5 billion for NOAA, a slight increase over the FY 2012 level. NOAA’s weather satellites would receive the bulk of the new funding, whereas research, agency operations, and facilities would receive slightly less funding than the current year.

Two amendments related to NOAA’s climate work were adopted during House consideration of the bill. One proposal sponsored by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, cut $542,000 from the budget for NOAA’s online climate portal: climate.gov. An amendment offered by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) reduced funding for NOAA’s climate services by $18 million.

The White House has issued a memo stating: “If the President were presented with H.R. 5326, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.” The Obama Administration’s major concern with the bill is that it includes less funding than was stipulated in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which paved the way for the raising of the debt limit last summer in exchange for budget cuts in future years.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed their version of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill in April. The Senate is expected to start floor debate of the bill in June.

 


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