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If the president of the United States felt that we spend too much on NASA could he/she simply not spend the money that Congress has authorized? For example, could he lay off NASA employees and not rehire them?

Or, to rephrase it without NASA: Does the president have the constitutional authority not to spend money that Congress has authorized?

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Not exactly. The Impoundment Control Act limits presidential power of rescission and deferral in spending of Congressionally approved funds. Rescission requires Congressional approval, and there is a 45 date limit on such withholding. A deferral requires Congressional notification (specific justification for any deferral) and cannot extend past the end of the fiscal year.

Additionally, POTUS cannot fire a NASA employee, he can only fire those who report directly to him. The administrator of NASA can be fired by POTUS, and some NASA employees can be fired by the administrator (some have federal tenure).

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    As a slight twist, most USA spending requires both authorization and appropriation bills. If a task shows up on one bill but not the other, you can't do it. This can mean that some appropriated money can't be spent because the work was not authorized. The reverse is a bit more common, where work is authorized but no money is appropriated to do it.
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 29, 2023 at 12:58
  • Could he direct the NASA administrator not to approve any projects, perhaps by establishing overly difficult criteria for approval? So they'll have all this money, but nothing to do with it.
    – Barmar
    Aug 29, 2023 at 15:20
  • @Barmar That's a question that would apply to any federal spending. Note that Trump's first impeachment was over his refusal to deliver funded military aid to Ukraine. Aug 29, 2023 at 15:43
  • @jeffronicus I thought it was over the quid-pro-quo of tying it to the Hunter Biden investigation.
    – Barmar
    Aug 29, 2023 at 15:56
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    45 date limit -> 45-day limit, I suppose (too short for an edit).
    – jcaron
    Aug 29, 2023 at 16:04

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