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Senate subpanel advances bill funding Commerce, Justice, science

Senate subpanel advances bill funding Commerce, Justice, science

A Senate subcommittee on Wednesday advanced a $51.1 billion bill to fund the departments of Commerce and Justice, as well as science agencies.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up the measure Thursday, along with two other fiscal 2016 spending bills.

A summary of the bill, the text of which won’t be released until Thursday, said it contains $965 million more than current levels and $985 million less than President Obama’s request.

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The House recently passed its version of the bill with $51.4 billion in funding.

For the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, the Senate bill contains funding for the FBI, Patent and Trademark Office, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Census Bureau, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service, Federal Prison System, NASA, and National Science Foundation, among others.

“Within prudent fiscal boundaries, this bill achieves a careful balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, economic development, scientific research and space exploration,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the bill.

Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiBottom line How the US can accelerate progress on gender equity Former Md. senator Paul Sarbanes dies at 87 MORE (D-Md.), the panel’s ranking member, said Wednesday the bill fully funds cybersecurity research. But, she said, it fails to provide “adequate resources” for scientific research, reducing the immigration court backlog, exploring the solar system and expanding a prisoner re-entry program.

NASA would receive $19.3 billion, which is $279 million above 2015 levels and $240 million below Obama’s request. That funding would be used for NASA programs and systems to enable humans to explore space beyond current capabilities, such as taking astronauts to Mars and beyond.

The bill contains funding to advance the creation of privately owned vehicles that could bring people to the International Space Station, allowing the U.S. to end its reliance on Russia for transporting Americans. Mikulski said the bill underfunds that program, however, and NASA will have to continue relying on Russia beyond 2017.

Mikulski’s office said the bill doesn’t provide any of Obama’s $50 million request to provide legal services to children involved in the immigration court system.

The bill provides $1.13 billion to the Census Bureau, but Mikulski said the agency predicts the 2020 census could cost more than $17 billion.

It’s unclear whether the bill contains funding for body cameras, which received $25 million in the House version of the measure. The White House had requested $50 million for next year. Additional details will be released Thursday once the bill is unveiled.