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House Votes Against SSC and For Space Station:It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

JUN 22, 1993

By a vote of 280 to 150, the House of Representatives voted yesterday to terminate the Superconducting Super Collider. This vote came during consideration of H.R. 2445, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 1994. Earlier this week, the House rejected, by a one vote margin, an amendment which would have killed the space station.

Neither proponents or opponents of these projects should consider these actions the final word. There are many legislative hurdles left for both the SSC and the space station, and it will probably not be until sometime in September when final decisions are made.

Supporters of both projects have their work cut out for them. Last year, the House also voted to terminate the SSC, but by a smaller margin of 232 to 181. The Senate approved SSC funding, and later prevailed in the final bill, much to the outrage of House SSC opponents. This year SSC opponents are going to petition that in the House/Senate negotiations on the final bill, the House conferees express “the will of the House.” This should be interesting to follow, since the House conferees will all probably be strong supporters of the collider.

This energy bill now goes to the Senate, which has historically been much more inclined to support the collider. The Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee will mark-up this bill under the leadership of its chairman, J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) He is a strong supporter of the SSC, and is also one of the best vote counters on the Hill. Johnston will take the bill to the Senate floor when he feels he has enough votes to support collider funding, as he did last year. This vote is scheduled for September, and yesterday Johnston said, “I would predict success.” Texas senator Phil Gramm (R) is less optimistic, saying, “I think it’s still out there to be won or lost.”

The space station vote on Wednesday was held as part of the House’s consideration of the NASA authorization bill. By a one vote margin, the House retained the authorization for the station in this legislation. Next week, the same battle will be fought again when the House considers H.R. 2491. This appropriations bill provides the actual funding for NASA, and House opponents will offer an amendment to terminate the station program. Last year, the House rejected termination by a vote of 181-237. Predicting next week’s vote is highly uncertain, since nearly one-third of the House is composed of new Members. Given the extremely close authorization vote this week, it is safe to say that next week’s vote should be similar. As is the case with the SSC, the Senate will then vote on its own version of the legislation, with a final bill to be decided by an early autumn conference committee.

The Washington Post reported this week that NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin will remain in his position. If true, Goldin may find that the intensity of NASA’s recent station redesign effort will pale compared to what lies in store for him this summer as Congress continues its consideration of NASA’s budget.

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