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Senate panel expected to reject House's deep cut for Goddard


WASHINGTON -- A key Senate committee is expected today to rebuff a House decision to cut by one-fourth funding for the main mission of the Goddard Space Flight Center. The House move threatens to cost the Greenbelt facility 1,200 jobs.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to endorse a cut of $60 million in the Goddard-based mission instead of the $333 million approved by the House.

If the Senate position prevails, according to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who serves on the Appropriations Committee, the effect on Goddard would be negligible. "I will continue to work in the Senate for Goddard and for the people who make it such a success," Ms. Mikulski said.

A resolution of the issue may be weeks or months off, as the Republican-led Congress and the Democratic White House move into a period of complex negotiations over federal spending that has the potential for many trade-offs.

A major break for Goddard came Monday, when a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, on which Ms. Mikulski ranks as the senior Democrat, recommended that the environmental program known as Mission to Planet Earth -- the facility's main program -- get a cut of no more than $60 million from the $1.34 billion requested for this year by President Clinton.

That position is expected to be endorsed by the full Appropriations Committee today and adopted by the full Senate within a few weeks.

But the Senate position has to be reconciled with that of the House. And it is by no means clear that any compromise bill would go easy on Goddard.

In the House, Rep. Robert S. Walker, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Science Committee, and other leaders would rather spend scarce resources on space exploration than on environmental research.

In addition, Mission to Planet Earth, which uses satellites to study how the oceans, land and life on Earth interact and contribute to climate changes, lacks support among some Republicans because it is a favorite of Vice President Al Gore.

Mr. Walker brokered a deal in the House last month in which $333 million was cut from Mission to Planet Earth so more money could be channeled into other space programs, including the Cassini mission to Saturn.

Goddard also benefited from the Walker compromise, though. That was because an earlier proposal had called for transferring its duties to a California center and shutting the Greenbelt facility altogether.

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