27 June 2014

Appropriations on Hold, Future Uncertain

Josh Shiode

Though just last week it seemed that the Senate was set to work through its versions of the appropriations bills for NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and a host of other agencies, the process broke down last Thursday (19 June 2014) amid disagreement over the process for approving amendments. At this point, there's no indication of how or when appropriations bills will come back up for consideration on the Senate floor (though theories abound).

The prospects are now even higher that the Congress will have to eventually pass a Continuing Resolution (CR), setting spending for discretionary programs on autopilot for at least some fraction of FY 2015. If enacted before 1 October 2014, a CR would avert a government shutdown like the one at the end of FY 2013, but while agencies' doors would stay open, this option leads to considerable funding uncertainty and wipes away the potential increases for NASA and NSF approved by both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. 

To be clear, though there is at least one controversial NASA provision in the Senate bill, it is not responsible for derailing the Senate process. The reasons behind the impasse are not entirely clear, but much of the discussion has centered around potential amendments that would block proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations regarding carbon pollution.