WASHINGTON - Congress on Tuesday delayed a showdown with the White House over the future of the nation's space program as well as the continuation of the back-to-the-moon Constellation program.
A Democrat-led House subcommittee voted unanimously to give President Barack Obama the entire $4.2 billion he requested for manned space exploration next year, but blocked any expenditures before Congress itself approves a new roadmap for NASA's future, expected later this year.
The outcome represented a face-saving compromise by Democrats on the panel to provide Obama an early symbolic victory. The move awards him the money he requested for NASA's marquee exploration programs as it simultaneously tied his hands until Congress takes further action.
The 14-member panel of nine Democrats and five Republicans agreed to provide NASA $19 billion requested by Obama in February. The panel, mindful of mounting concern over federal spending, reduced aspects of Obama's spending plan for NASA by cutting spending on space operations from $4.9 billion to $4.5 billion and cutting aspects of exploration from $4.3 billion to $3.6 billion.
The action by the House Appropriations Committee's panel with jurisdiction over NASA "takes no position on the president's proposed new direction for the program," said Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., chairman of the subcommittee.