Funding for NASA - to the tune of $53 billion - took a hit Thursday, and Congress agreed to spend $33 billion on mass transit.
At least in a political science class at Kansas University, as students pretended they were members of Congress and reworked the federal budget.
"That's a very unenviable position to be in: Congress making those tough decisions and having ramifications politically from those decisions you make," said Jason Docman, a Kansas City, Kan., senior.
Docman and four fellow students negotiated 32 budget decisions on how much to tax and spend. Their goal was to cut by half the $5.2 trillion the United States is expected to accumulate in debt during the next 10 years. The national debt currently is $9.3 trillion.
To do that, they had to compromise some political positions to make the numbers work.
Michael Lynch, assistant professor of political science, said the exercise forces students to think more about balancing 32 political issues - all on limited resources.
"They develop maybe a little more nuanced view of policy and how these decisions are made," he said.
The class, divided into five groups, decreased the projected $5.2 trillion deficit. But no group eliminated it entirely.
Amelia Crowl, an Emporia junior, said her group extended tax cuts only for the middle class and planned to guarantee health insurance for all American children. In return, she had to give in to a proposal not to tax the worldwide income of U.S. corporations.
After all that, her group ended up trimming $1.5 trillion from the projected $5.2 trillion deficit.
"You never realize how comprehensive all government spending really is," Crowl said.