The White House and Congress is having a Constitutional tussle over an effort by lawmakers to prohibit any cooperation between NASA and China on space without the the legislature’s specific approval. Science Now explains that the conflict pits the Obama Administration’s prerogative to conduct foreign policy vs. Congress’s power of the purse:
The ban is part of the 2011 budget approved last month to avert a government shutdown. It was crafted by Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), a fierce critic of China who chairs a House spending committee that oversees several science agencies. The ban says that no funds can be used by NASA or the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) “to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company.” It also prevents any NASA facility from hosting “official Chinese visitors.”
Appearing today before that panel to defend the Administration’s 2012 budget request for science, presidential advisor John Holdren told Wolf that, in effect, the ban doesn’t apply to the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy. That authority, Holdren explained, extends to a bilateral agreement on scientific cooperation that Holdren and China’s science minister signed in January that builds upon a 1979 pact that has spawned activities between many U.S. agencies and their Chinese counterparts.