Just before Thanksgiving, Congress put virtually all spending bills for FY 2005 into a massive omnibus appropriations measure. The Bush administration lobbied Congress hard to ensure that its priorities would prevail. Where NASA was concerned, the White House and O’Keefe had needed help from two extremely influential legislators. One was Tom DeLay (R-TX), majority leader and representative from the Houston-area district where the Johnson Space Center was located. The other was Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a former O’Keefe mentor.
The result was to hold all discretionary spending not related to Defense and Homeland Security to a collective 1% increase over what the agencies had received in 2004. Other agencies were literally “taxed” to provide the larger increase Bush sought for NASA. NASA rose from $15.3 billion to $i6.i billion in spending. Moreover, the bill was written to provide O’Keefe maximum flexibility to reprogram money, to make sure the new mission got off to a strong start. Diaz stated that the new budget was good for his Science Directorate. It would provide for a “very robust science program,” he said.52
O’Keefe was elated with the financial victory and directed his troops to “deliver.” To his regret, the Hubble controversy still festered, mightily. In December he received an interim report from an NAS panel that strongly urged a shuttle repair mission for Hubble, saying the robotic mission O’Keefe favored was so technically demanding that it was unlikely to be possible before Hubble’s crucial equipment expired. O’Keefe, however, would not be dealing with Hubble—or the Moon-Mars program and alleged “collateral damage.” On December 13, he announced he was resigning, effective in February 2005.53 He was headed for Louisiana State University as its chancellor.