A Senate panel on Thursday approved a budget proposal to fund NASA, reduce the agency’s spending on climate change research and create a new climate change task force.
But the panel also passed a procedural motion to approve the House’s version of the budget, which would slash NASA’s climate change program by about $10 billion, and would add $50 billion to the nation’s already-shorted NASA budget.
Democrats are expected to vote on the final budget by the end of the week, and Republicans will likely use the budget reconciliation process to kill the Senate budget.
Both the House and Senate budget resolutions have been circulating for months as the parties negotiate over a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, which is set to hit the U.S. economy on Jan. 1.
The White House and congressional Democrats say the budget would provide an adequate boost for NASA, while Republicans say it would hurt the agency, which has spent years attempting to mitigate climate change.
In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the White House urged the chamber to approve a budget that “funds critical programs and operations for NASA while protecting the environment, and the nation.”
The budget would allow the agency to keep the astronauts who have been on the International Space Station and its shuttle fleet, which includes the two crew members who died during the launch of a SpaceX rocket in July, according to a report from The Hill.
The budget also would expand funding for the National Science Foundation and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which have both seen budgets slashed by about half in recent years.
A Senate budget resolution was introduced in June that would have cut NASA’s funding by $4.8 billion, or 15.3 percent, to $9.5 billion.
But that bill was quickly blocked by Democrats and then by McConnell.
Senate Democrats said the budget proposed in the House would “further accelerate the cuts in NASA’s budget and would reduce the strength of NASA’s support for programs vital to our Nation’s security.”