WASHINGTON — Congress voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to provide $2 billion this year for NASA's planned space station, giving President Bush his entire request for his No. 1 space priority.
But the decision will prove costly to other space agency programs, which lawmakers said had to be slashed to provide money for the orbiting laboratory. The space station is expected to cost as much as $40 billion by 1999, when it is scheduled to be functioning.
"If you're going to fund the space station . . . then some programs of NASA have to be eliminated or reduced or stretched out" into future years, said Rep. Bob Traxler (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Traxler led an unsuccessful fight earlier this year to kill the station.
The space station funds were part of an $80.9-billion measure for space, housing, veterans' and other programs for fiscal 1992 that the House approved 390 to 30. The new fiscal year began Tuesday. There was no separate vote on the space station money.
The Senate approved the bill on a voice vote later, also without a separate vote on the space station. But, because the two chambers disagreed on a provision setting standards at Department of Veterans Affairs laboratories, the bill will not be sent to the White House until a compromise is reached.
Overall, NASA would get $14.3 billion this fiscal year, or 3% more than last year. The space agency is accustomed to seeing its budget increase by more than 10% annually. Bush had requested $15.7 billion for the agency.
To find funds for the station, other parts of NASA's budget suffered. Lawmakers voted to kill the infrared telescope, eliminate almost all of the money sought for the National Aerospace Plane and make numerous other cuts.
NASA considers the space station to be the core of its planned research for the next several decades.
The station has run into cost problems, however, and NASA repeatedly has scaled back plans for the project.