WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives, by a 240-173 vote, has restored funding for a manned space laboratory and observation craft.
Advocates of the program considered it dead in the House and were greatly surprised by yesterday's vote.
"This vote guarantees keeping the space station funds. The Senate won't consider" cutting the program's funding, said Rep. Edward F. Feighan, D-Ohio, whose constituency includes NASA employees in Cleveland.
The vote reversed this week's decision by the House Appropriations Committee to eliminate $2 billion for a manned U.S. space station. Committee members said they eliminated the funds for the project because of overall budget restraints, the growing cost of the project and the need to spend more money on other domestic programs, such as medical care for veterans and subsidized housing.
Up to the last minute of debate, proponents of the project said they expected to lose their fight, but were hoping for a close vote that could be used to apply pressure in the Senate.
The amendment proposes to fund the space station by freezing NASA's budget at its current spending level and by taking $217 million from the $250 million in extra funds that Congress appropriated for subsidized housing programs because it felt that President Bush's proposed funding level was too low.
Bush has said he will reject the appropriations bill that includes NASA's budget if it arrives on his desk without funding for the manned station, which is expected to cost $30 billion by the time it is ready for assembly in space at the end of the century.
The House vote followed a long and contentious debate among lawmakers, with proponents arguing for the future of NASA's manned space program and opponents insisting that the money is better spent on more down-to-earth domestic programs.
"What we are choosing here . . . is whether to be shortsighted in our thinking and use stopgap measures to heal our economic problems or whether to invest in the future," said Rep. Jim Chapman, D-Texas, a co-sponsor of the approved amendment.
But Rep. Louis Stokes, D-Ohio, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he would "absolutely object" to restoring space station funding by putting the burden of the costs "on the backs of the least fortunate."