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Texas delegation wants stimulus money for NASA


Texas delegation wants stimulus money for NASA

By STEWART M. POWELL Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Texas' top lawmakers in Congress want President Barack Obama to pony up some of the $787 billion in economic stimulus money to rescue NASA's manned space program and ensure that astronauts one day will travel beyond the orbiting international space station.

Twenty-eight Republican and Democratic members of Texas' 34-member delegation, led by Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, delivered their appeal by letter on Monday, days before Obama is expected to hear a White House panel of experts recommend greater spending.


The lawmakers asked Obama to divert $3 billion from the unspent portion of the economic stimulus package that continues to be doled out as part of an economic recovery plan stretching over two years.

The two senators and 19 Republican House members who signed the letter voted against the economic stimulus in February; the seven Democrats who signed the letter voted for it.

“Boldness does not come cheaply (in space) and in a venture that is inherently risky, we have an obligation to provide the adequate resources to make these worthy goals safe, attainable and sustainable over time,” the lawmakers wrote the president. “Since the stated purpose of the stimulus package was to secure good jobs and stabilize our economy, there is no better investment that could be made than the addition of up to $3 billion to NASA” in the next fiscal year.

The requested $3 billion annual increase would represent a 16 percent hike in the $18.7 billion NASA budget requested by Obama for next year.

The letter was drafted and circulated by Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, the freshman lawmaker whose congressional district includes the Johnson Space Center that serves as the hub for 20,000 direct and indirect jobs in the greater Houston area.

“Investing in space is well worth the return on investment” in the effort to “secure good jobs and stabilize our economy,” Olson said in a statement.

Shifting the spending remains essential in the face of 3.4 million people losing their jobs and unemployment reaching 9.8 percent nationwide, Cornyn said.

“With the stimulus money that has already been spent clearly not working, it is my hope that the administration will use a portion of the remaining, authorized, unspent stimulus dollars to safeguard our nation's space program,” said Cornyn.

The White House had no immediate comment on the lawmakers' letter.

The lawmakers acted amid concern by some supporters of NASA that there is little support on Capitol Hill for the additional spending being recommended to Obama by the White House panel led by retired aerospace executive Norman Augustine.