Press Release

Ranking Member Johnson Statement on the “National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018”

By SpaceRef Editor
April 17, 2018
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(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is holding a markup of two bills including H.R. 5503, the “National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018.”

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson’s (D-TX), statement on the bill is below.

Thank you Chairman Smith. Unlike the last bill we considered, this bill, H.R. 5503, is deeply flawed, and the process that got us to this moment was just as flawed, as I will explain.

First, this bill slashes funding for Earth Science by half a billion dollars in FY 19—a quarter of the total Earth Science budget. These cuts are simply another manifestation of the Majority’s continued war on climate science.

However, these reckless cuts are so deep that they will likely threaten more than just climate science at NASA. The Earth Science budget supports numerous programs that help Americans, from aiding farmers to saving American lives in natural disaster response.

Where does all this money go? The Majority diverts it to searching for space aliens and to the President’s unexamined initiative to build an orbiting moon base, among other things.  I wish I were joking.

The Majority slashes funding for programs that help humans here on Earth, and instead prioritizes spending money to find space aliens.

Let me be clear:  I think the search for life in the universe is a fascinating quest, and I’m also a strong supporter of Exploration.  But I think melting ice caps, rising sea levels, the increases in extreme weather events and drought, and the other serious manifestations of climate change here on Earth are also things we should be concerned about and studying.

I don’t have time today to discuss all the issues with this bill, and there are many.  I would just note that the bill endorses President Trump’s Exploration priorities and plans without the Committee having had a single hearing to review them.

It directs NASA to follow the ISS Transition Plan before Committee Members have even had any opportunity to review it in depth or hear from stakeholders.  I could go on with other examples, but I think you get my point.

As problematic as the substance of the bill is, the process that brought us here today is just as problematic. The Majority staff began discussing this legislation with the Minority a couple of weeks ago.  They first provided Minority staff with an early draft two weeks ago.  A significantly different version was provided to the Minority on April 12th. It came with an ultimatum: in essence, if I didn’t agree to support the bill as written, then the Chairman would notice the markup on April 13th with a different, punitive version of the bill.

And that’s what happened, just as Members were leaving town for the weekend.

I really don’t think vindictiveness is a good basis for legislating.  I also don’t think it is very effective in the long run.  But the reality is we are now marking up a partisan bill that has been rushed to markup with childish ultimatums and arbitrary deadlines—in the process, disenfranchising Members on both sides of the aisle from being able to conduct the oversight and hearings that one of our Committee’s most significant agencies warrants.

This is no way to legislate for an agency that accounts for fully one half of the total dollars our Committee authorizes.

It has needlessly injected partisanship into our Nation’s space program, yet again. That doesn’t help NASA.  Instead, it ultimately winds up weakening the widespread bipartisan support NASA has traditionally enjoyed, and it certainly diminishes the standing of this Committee.

I yield back.

SpaceRef staff editor.