WASHINGTON - Congress isn't expected to make spending decisions about NASA until after the upcoming Nov. 2 election, lawmakers said Tuesday.

Lawmakers have been debating the space agency's future for most of the year, after President Barack Obama proposed giving the agency an extra $6 billion over five years and changing its priorities.

Only two weeks remain until Congress leaves town for the Nov. 2 election, leaving lawmakers little time to chart a policy and decide how much to spend. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, has been negotiating a new blueprint with Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee. [NASA's New Direction: FAQ]

But lawmakers so far have failed to bridge disagreements on how much to spend on commercial space and when to pursue development of a heavy-lift rocket.

Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, who serves on Gordon's committee, said it's important to approve a bill that provides an additional shuttle flight, growth in commercial spaceflight and a NASA-led rocket. "It is imperative that we move quickly to approve a plan for NASA," she said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the chamber could still debate a NASA policy bill next week if Gordon and Nelson reach a compromise.

NASA advocates worry that disputes could jeopardize the $6 billion over five years ? including $278 million more in 2011 ? that Obama has proposed.

House Republicans have begun calling for a return to 2008 spending levels and other Republicans have urged a spending freeze next year. Both arguments would become more powerful if Republicans take control of one or both chambers in the election.

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