House Republicans Slash NASA Earth-Science Budget

A spending bill facing a vote in a House committee would cut money for earth science and climate research.

House Republicans unveiled the details of a spending bill on Tuesday that would cut the amount of money NASA spends on earth science and climate-change research.

The push arrives on the heels of a concerted effort by congressional Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, a 2016 presidential hopeful, to steer NASA away from the study of climate change and towards space exploration. It takes place against the backdrop a broader GOP effort to sink President Obama's ambitious agenda to tackle rising greenhouse gases and stave off the worst impacts of global warming.

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to pass the bill Wednesday.

NASA's earth-science program oversees a wide array of research that scientists say is critical to understanding climate change. It includes initiatives to study rising sea levels, melting Arctic ice, and the ways human activity is impacting the planet.

The spending bill currently sets aside $1.68 billion for NASA to spend on earth science. That's a cut from the $1.77 billion the agency currently spends on the program. (It's also less than the $1.95 billion requested by President Obama for 2016.)

For space exploration, the spending bill doles out $4.76 billion, an increase from the current level of $4.36 billion and also above $4.5 billion that Obama requested for next year.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, promised a fight on Monday over the proposed cuts.

"Climate change is damaging MD's shores and the Chesapeake Bay, costing billions billions in tourism and causing farmers heavy losses," the senator from Maryland tweeted, adding: "That's why I'm fighting to put funds in the fed checkbook for NASA's Earth Science program and climate research at NOAA and NSF."