WASHINGTON – A bill passed by the House Thursday that cuts funding to NASA by nearly $1 billion, including $267 million from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, will not become law, Rep. Steny Hoyer promised today.
Speaking at Goddard’s Visitor’s Center, surrounded by relics of America’s pioneering role in space technology, Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said the bill would be vetoed by President Clinton. But before that last resort, he said, every effort would be made to stop it in the Senate.
The cuts were contained in the Veteran Affairs and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill, which the House approved, 235-185. All seven representatives to the House from Maryland voted against the bill, which, Hoyer said, could result in the loss of 1,500 jobs at Goddard.
The cuts also could jeopardize the jobs of several hundred others in Prince George’s County who work for smaller businesses that supply products to Goddard, according to Joseph James, president and chief executive officer of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation.
“No one needs to go to bed worrying about losing their jobs,” Hoyer said. “We have a secret weapon. A high-tech, high-energy, focused weapon – Barbara Mikulski,” he said, adding that Mikulski, D-Baltimore, was a “giant in fighting for Goddard and NASA.”
Mikulski is a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and is ranking member on its subcommittee dealing with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development. That subcommittee has yet to introduce its version of the bill. Mikulski had expressed her opposition to the bill and the NASA cuts in a statement after the measure was first introduced in August.
“I am on the side of NASA’s employees and thousands of men and women who work at the Goddard Space Flight Center and other NASA centers around the country,” she said, adding that the bill was “outrageous and unacceptable.”
Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, has said he will work closely with Mikulski and with senators on both sides to restore the funding to NASA, according to his spokesman.
Clinton’s office has also made its opposition to the bill clear. According to a statement, the president’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill for various reasons, including the cuts to NASA.
“If enacted, these reductions would jeopardize U.S. leadership and competitiveness in space by decimating key elements of the nation’s space program, requiring the largest restructuring of NASA since the end of the Apollo program,” the White House statement said.
Under the bill passed by the House, NASA has a budget of $12.65 billion for fiscal 2000, down from $13.6 billion in ’99.
Fred Hawkins, president of Goddard Alliance, a body of contractors working for NASA, said that funding for the agency had been reduced almost one-third over the past seven years, causing significant reductions in space programs.
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