WAIVING POINTS OF ORDER AGAINST CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 2620, DEPARTMENTS OF VETERANS AFFAIRS AND HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2002 — (Extensions of Remarks – November 13, 2001)

SPEECH OF

HON. TIM ROEMER

OF INDIANA

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Thursday, November 8, 2001

  • Mr. ROEMER. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in opposition to the VA-HUD bill. My frustrations concerning NASA’s international space station and its ongoing budget woes have been echoed by the independent Management and Cost Evaluation Task Force. This panel recently reported to Congress that the space station is faced with crippling cost overruns.
  • Congress almost got it right in 1993 when the space station survived by just one single vote. We recognized then that NASA could not afford the station. In the years that followed, this behemoth has squeezed the budgets of the so-called “smaller, faster, cheaper” missions. Not since the Hubble Space Telescope repair and the Mars Pathfinder missions has the American public been rewarded by the fantastic discoveries offered by our space program.
  • Now the independent task force has told us that overall management of the whole program and its total costs has been inadequate. As a result of budget overruns and schedule delays, NASA must reorganize the entire space station program, redefine the scientific objectives and drastically cut spending to keep the current three-person crew financially feasible. The panel further reported that plans to complete the basic U.S. part of the station over the next 5 years with the $8.3 billion allotted

    to the program are not credible.

  • No one has a good estimate of how much the space station will cost. GAO estimated years ago that it would cost American taxpayers more than $100 billion to build and operate over its lifetime. Now it is clear that there will be no worthwhile scientific research to show for it. The station’s eight original scientific research objectives are gone along with the crew return vehicle, which might have allowed an adequate number of crew members to conduct research.
  • Regardless, the station is now limited to a crew of only three–the number of astronauts that can fit inside a Russian Soyuz re-entry vehicle. That is why Europe, Japan, Canada and other international partners will not be able to conduct research. Instead, they will spend their time simply preserving and keeping in orbit a behemoth that can’t afford the manpower to yield any new meaningful science.
  • I am also concerned that this bill comes up short on critically important housing programs that serve this country’s most vulnerable citizens and families. Many accounts within the Department of Housing and Urban Development are simply zeroed out under this legislation. For example, the Public Housing Drug Elimination Grant program has been eliminated. Funding for empowerment zones is cut by 78 percent, public housing modernization by 5 percent, and community development block grants by 2 percent.
  • Mr. Speaker, additional cuts to distressed public housing revitalization and fair housing and equal opportunity activities will not help alleviate the shortage of adequate housing in America’s inner cities and rural areas. I cannot support efforts to cut off poor and rural families from finding decent housing in these areas.