US Capitol at night

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Senate spending panel leaves NSF flat, cuts NASA science

A Senate spending panel today approved a tiny budget increase next year for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and flat funding for NASA—and congratulated themselves for doing so given a cap on overall domestic discretionary spending across the government.

NSF would receive $46 million above its current level of $7.46 billion. That 0.6% hike is well below the $500 million increase sought by the Obama administration. But some $400 million of that requested boost would have come from so-called mandatory spending, a mechanism that legislators have repeatedly said was a nonstarter. So the Senate panel is basically giving NSF half of what the president had requested in discretionary spending. Additional details are expected when the bill moves to the full Senate appropriations committee on Thursday.

The discretionary portion of NASA’s budget would have shrunk by $1 billion under the president’s request. But the panel restored that cut, giving NASA essentially its 2016 budget of $19.3 billion. The agency’s science programs would receive $5.4 billion, some $194 million below current levels. But it’s $92 million more than the White House requested for science in the discretionary portion of its budget. Again, stay tuned for details.