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PolitiFact: Rubio's Cash for Clunkers claim runs on fumes

The statement

The Obama administration "spent more money on the Cash for Clunkers program than the space program."

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, Feb. 8, in Florida Today

The ruling

The Obama administration recently announced plans to kill the NASA Constellation program, which sought to put astronauts back on the moon.

Rubio spoke against President Barack Obama's plan at a meeting of the Brevard County Republican Club. The article said Rubio "criticized the Obama administration for discontinuing manned spaceflight in favor of more innovative technological advances, ignoring that Obama also proposed an increase in NASA's budget over the next several years."

Rubio was quoted saying, "They spent more money on the Cash for Clunkers program than the space program."

Rubio campaign spokesman Alberto Martinez said Rubio was referring to the Constellation program, not NASA's overall budget. Here's how the numbers compare:

• Cash for Clunkers was a $3 billion program, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

• NASA's overall budget this year is $18.7 billion, proposed to rise to $19 billion next year.

• NASA's exploration program, which includes the Constellation initiative, was about $3.8 billion this year. The cost would be $2.5 billion to phase out the Constellation program over two years and then it would drop to zero.

So Rubio would be right if the comparison is Constellation ($3 billion for Cash for Clunkers vs. $2.5 billion to phase out the Constellation effort), but he'd be wrong if it's the NASA space program overall (the $3 billion for Clunkers vs. roughly $19 billion for NASA).

By referring to the "space program," his comment was so vague that it sounds more like he's referring to the entire NASA budget. The Florida Today article helps to back that up, noting that he ignored Obama's plan to increase NASA's overall spending.

So we find the claim Barely True.

Amy Sherman, Times staff writer. This ruling has been edited for print. For the full ruling — and others — go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Rubio's Cash for Clunkers claim runs on fumes 03/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 15, 2010 11:31pm]
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