Lawmakers resist telescope cuts
Maryland lawmakers are pushing back on a proposal advanced Thursday in the Republican-led House of Representatives to cut funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which supports hundreds of jobs at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.
A House appropriations subcommittee with oversight of NASA and other federal agencies approved by voice vote a spending bill that would strip funding for the project, which is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The program is more than $1.5 billion over budget and its launch has been delayed to 2018 at the earliest.
The spending legislation demonstrates "our commitment to restoring austerity, restraint and thoughtfulness to the" spending process, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement. Without mentioning the telescope directly, Rogers said the legislation eliminates "extraneous, duplicative and unnecessary programs."
Maryland Democrats called the move shortsighted. Rep. Donna F. Edwards argued that the project is 75 percent complete and said it supports 2,000 jobs, including 500 in Maryland.
"While there is reasonable cause for concern regarding NASA’s management of the project, eliminating this important and ambitious project is truly short-sighted," the Prince George's County Democrat said in a statement. "I worry about the message we send to our students to reach for the stars and pursue careers in the sciences while simultaneously eliminating projects that further research and technology and keep us on the cutting edge of competitiveness.”
If the bill is approved by the full committee and the House, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski will play a key role in determining the fate of the project when the legislation arrives in the Senate. The Maryland Democrat is the chairwoman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees science.
In a tweet on Thursday, Mikulski called the House subcommittee's vote "shortsighted and misguided."
"The Webb Telescope will lead to the kind of innovation and discovery that have made America great," Mikulski said in a statement. "It will inspire America's next generation of scientists and innovators that will have the new ideas that lead to the new jobs in our new economy."
Rep. Steny Hoyer, whose district includes Goddard, said he spoke with the chairman and ranking Democrat on the subcommittee about the issue. "This cut will have a dramatic impact on local jobs here in the Fifth District and threatens the future of science research," he said.
An earlier version of this post misidentified the House district Goddard is located in.