Senate passes NASA authorization bill

The Senate approved, by unanimous consent, its version of a NASA authorization bill on Wednesday. As you may recall, one of the provisions of S.1281 is that “the Administrator may not retire the Space Shuttle orbiter until a replacement human-rated spacecraft system has demonstrated that it can take humans into Earth orbit and return them safely”. The bill also designates the US segment of the ISS as a national laboratory to “expand the variety of areas to which space research can be applied,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Hutchison, said in a press release. The legislation must be reconciled with the House version, HR 3070, which passed by a wide margin in July.

16 comments to Senate passes NASA authorization bill

  • Ray

    This is proof that their is hardcore support for manned space exploration and that it will never be canceled. Personally, I dont see manned spaceflight ever being cancled, short of an apocolipse. The space station went way over budget and they never got rid of that even though John Kerry tried for many years to get rid of it but could not.


  • Mark R Whittington

    One of the other interesting provisions is that it specifically endorses the Vision for Space Exploration.

  • Ray

    I think its a great thing that it specificially endorses VSE.


  • Ray, there was one vote on the Space Station that came within one vote of killing the project.

    You don’t see such close votes today.

    — Donald

  • Ray

    Ray, there was one vote on the Space Station that came within one vote of killing the project.

    You don’t see such close votes today.

    — Donald

    That was probably because the democrats were a majority in the house at the time. I always voted democrat but somehow I dont remember that.


  • While it is true that Democrats were more united in their opposition, I recall concern about the Space Station being at least somewhat bipartisan. Certainly, many of the Republicans on this list seem to have discovered an after-the-fact dislike for the project.

    — Donald

  • The roll call vote on June 23, 1993, for killing space station is here. The Republican vote was 61 to kill, 112 to save. The Democrat+Sanders vote was 154 to kill, 104 to save.

    As you might expect, Tom DeLay voted to save.

    So it was indeed a fairly bipartisan vote. It is true that most Democrats voted to kill and most Republicans voted to save, but if you interpret it as a party-line vote, there were an enormous 165 cross-overs.

    What is more striking is that it is that this vote did not look scripted by the House leadership. It would be interesting to know how often the Republicans are split 3 to 2 (and lose the vote) in Tom DeLay’s version of the House.

    For that matter it is not yet clear to me that DeLay is really out of power, even temporarily, in the House. His real power comes from the reins of fundraising, which is also the basis of his indictment, and not his title as House Whip. He has definitely taken a hit, but that might not mean that he has let go.

    Actually the roll call reveals another wrinkle. The total listed vote on the page is 439 people, which is to say, 435 empowered Representatives, plus 5 ex officio (from Puerto Rico, etc), minus Speaker Tom Foley. 4 of the 5 unofficial votes were to kill and 1 abstained. I do not understand why these 4 are counted towards the 215.

    If the 5 ex officio really don’t count, then
    it suggests that the real vote was 211 to 216.
    (And of course Foley could have thrown a real tie if there had been one.)

  • Ray

    Republicians are more in the pockets of the people who own the big aerospace companies thats one reason I believe they tend to support nasa and manned space exploration more than democrats. I think republicians tend to be more for the military for similiar reasons. Democrats are more in the pockets of thoes who run hollywood

  • Nemo

    I do not understand why these 4 are counted
    towards the 215.

    Under House rules, the ex officio votes are included in the tally as long as they do not affect the final outcome.

    it suggests that the real vote was 211 to 216.

    You are correct. The House rules had the effect of making the 1993 space station vote appear closer than it really was. The official tally was 215-216, but if one “nay” (save station) vote had switched, the ex officio votes would have been removed and the official tally would have been 212-215. Two switches, 213-214. Three vote switches would have killed the station, 218-213.

  • Ray, far be it from me to defend Republicans, and especially the current post-Gingrich crop, but I believe there are a couple of important ideological issues, as well.

    First, Republicans are fighting for pro-active change, and second they believe in a wide-open “wild West” sort of an expansionist future. To a degree, I share the latter world view with them.

    Democrats won their battles in the 1930s and 1960s; they’re fighting defensive battles to preserve gains that too many take forgranted (e.g. the fourty hour work week, paid vacations, medical care for the elderly, et cetera). Battles to hold on to turf already gained, in theory, are easier, but only if everyone agrees that the turf needs to be defended.

    More importantly, the Democrats have no grand vision for the future, and the Republicans do. (I suggested one for the Democrats a few years ago in Space News and a couple of other places I Have a Dream for the Democrats, but, obviously, Mr. Bush’s VSE has made that politically moot.) Pollitically, a grand vision will always win over defending ancient battles won.

    Finally, If you believe in good government, you are restrained by responsibility and it puts limits on what you can do. If you believe in no government, the David Stockman approach of throwing a wrench in the works and hoping for the best is acceptable behavior. (E.g., Republican management of the Federal budget from Reagan on.) This gives Republicans an unavoidable and overwhelming political advantage: they can promise anything to anyone and then blame someone else for the consequences.

    If the Democrats are to have a future, I believe they must come up with some proactive vision for the future of the country. As I said in my article, it should be a vision that takes into account both the social issues they think important, _and_ the “Wild West” expansionist part of our history and culture. Pretending the latter does not exist or is not important is a one-way ticket to political oblivian, yet it’s the ticket the Democrats have been playing ever since Kennidy and Johnson.

    Specifically, if the Democrats are to have a constructive future in power, I believe they need a constructive counter to the VSE — or at the very least to provide tacit support while worrying about other things.

    — Donald

  • David Davenport

    Republicians are more in the pockets of the people who own the big aerospace companies

    Rilly? Whys is it that Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein and the rest of the CA Congressional Dimocrat mob keep trying to restart B-2 bomber production?

  • “Whys is it that Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein and the rest of the CA Congressional Dimocrat mob keep trying to restart B-2 bomber production?”

    Is that true? If so, I’d be very interested to know it. Could you show me the votes or other evidence, please?


    — Donald

  • It’s hard to know what to make of David Davenport’s phrase “keep trying”, because it’s not specific as to when Boxer and Feinstein and the “CA Congressional Dimocrat mob” last tried, or in what way they tried, or how often they tried. A Google search reveals that Dianne Feinstein does support the B-2 bomber and has voted for it in the past. So yes, this is also patronage, just like DeLay’s support of JSC. Except that even an indicted Tom DeLay is far more powerful than Dianne Feinstein.

    I found no clear evidence of Barbara Boxer’s position on the B-2 bomber one way or the other.

    Beyond that, David Davenport’s statement is certainly not completely true. I take the “CA Dimocrat mob” to mean the California Democrats in the U.S. House. At least some of the California Democrats oppose and have always opposed the B-2 bomber. Historically Ron Dellums (who is now retired) was a leading opponent of the B-2 bomber. He sponsored a House bill in 1995 to kill the B-w that went to a floor vote and came close to passing.

    On the other hand, if “Dimocrat mob” actually means both Democrats and Republicans from California, then David is closer to correct. One of the biggest champions of the B-2 is Republican Representative Buck McKeon. Not only is he trying to restart the B-2 program, in a recent interview he freely boasted that patronage is the real purpose of his efforts.

  • David Davenport

    Republicians (sic) are more in the pockets of the people who own the big aerospace companies

    Business’ clout keeps the government breaks coming
    By Aaron Zitner and Charles M. Sennott, [pinko Boston ] Globe Staff, 07/09/96

    WASHINGTON – Two weeks after his party was swamped in the mid-term elections of 1994, Robert B. Reich issued a simple dare. You Republicans won control of Congress by attacking welfare, the US labor secretary asserted. Why not cut “corporate welfare” and move business off the dole as well?

    But Reich’s own colleagues were uneasy with the challenge. Treasury Secretary Lloyd M. Bentsen and Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown quickly distanced themselves. And President Clinton, while calling it an “attractive idea,” made it clear he had not endorsed cutbacks in benefits to business

    In November, two Republicans brought the issue to the Senate. McCain and Thompson proposed a “dirty dozen” list of programs to be eliminated. From agriculture, they selected the Market Promotion Program. From the defense budget, the B-2 bomber and military export subsidies. From transportation, they chose highway demonstration projects.

    McCain and Thompson won support from conservative Republican Phil Gramm from Texas, along with Democrats Kennedy and John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, and Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

    But they lost, 74-25. Voting to uphold the subsidies were such progressives as Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrats, whose state benefits from millions of dollars in subsidies to the Gallo and Wente Brothers wineries, Sunkist orange cooperative, almond growers and others (including Northrop Grumman –DD).


    August 1994, Vol. 77, No. 8
    By James W. Canaan, Senior Editor print-friendly
    New Life for the B-2?

    Top billing for bombers in the roles and missions review could lead to a larger bomber force. The Senate moved to save the B-2 industrial base.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a leading exponent of the B-2, made a strong case on behalf of the bomber’s extraordinary structural attributes.

    “No other aircraft in the world, civilian or military, is built like the B-2,” she asserted. “The skills and production techniques used for [its] large composite structures are unique to the B-2 industrial team, and the B-2 line is the country’s last remaining active bomber production line.”

    In its campaign for congressional approval of B-2 production-base funds, Northrop claimed that preserving the base would “protect the option to purchase additional B-2s at a reasonable price and within a reasonable time.” The company also noted that the move would give Congress time to make “an informed, rational decision about how large a force of B-2s should be purchased” after seeing the results of the roles and missions review that Congress had requested. …


    Unified California Backs Joint Strike Fighter Cost Comparison Study

    Governor Gray Davis, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and 50 members of the California Congressional Delegation have signed a letter asking that the Pentagon examine the cost-effectiveness of competing sites before selecting a location for production of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft. The effort was spearheaded by Reps. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (Santa Clarita) and Loretta Sanchez (Anaheim).

    A recent study estimated that building the fighter at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale would save at least $2.2 billion compared to the cost associated with the two sites currently being considered by the two contractors competing for the plane contract.

    In a prepared statement, Rep. McKeon stated that “Bringing the Joint Strike Fighter to California will save federal taxpayers at least $2.2 billion, as well as provide at least 10,000 high-paying jobs here. In addition, 70 percent of the jobs will flow through to subcontractors, and having California as the final assembly site increases the chances that California subcontractors will be chosen for more of the work.” The JSF will be the first fighter to be used jointly by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Once the JSF aircraft are operational in 2008, DOD is expected to purchase 3,000 planes over a 20-year period.

    California lawmakers have been pushing for the Pentagon to at least study the benefits of building the fighter in Palmdale, site of the B-2 bomber final assembly, though the final decision will be up to the winning contractor. McKeon commented, “Even in Washington, $2.2 billion is a lot of money.”

    Does anyone here want to talk about space?

  • It is useful to finally see what David Davenport meant by his assertion, “Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein and the rest of the CA Congressional Dimocrat mob keep trying to restart B-2 bomber production.” This refers to the following two facts:

    1) Nine years ago, Feinstein and Boxer voted to continue B-2 production. Which however did not include any other “CA” Congressmen because it was a Senate vote.

    2) Five years ago, Feinstein, Boxer, and 50 California Congressmen petitioned the Pentagon to sustain the Joint Strike Fighter. However, these 50 Congressmen include both Democrats and Republicans; in particular the vocal House advocate McKeon is a Republican. Also, JSF is not the B-2 bomber.

    So the distortions in the original statement are clear. “Keep trying” means either five or nine years ago. “B-2″ means either the B-2 or the Joint Strike Fighter. “The rest of the CA Dimocrat mob” means both Democrats and Republicans (e.g., Rohrabacher, Dornan) and does not include all CA Democrats.

    The real sources presented do not refute the original claim that Republicans are more in the pockets of aerospace companies; they only show that many Democrats are also in the pockets of these companies.

    (As usual I wish that Davenport used summaries and hyperlinks instead of full cut-and-paste, but that may be a dead horse by now.)

    Anyway, to relate this to space policy, it is an interesting proposition that supporting JSF puts you in the pockets of aerospace companies. It may well be true, because JSF is yet another notorious delayware project, maybe even vaporware. But it is still interesting and space-related, because a key phrase in Craig Steidle’s resume is “of Joint Strike Fighter fame”.

  • One more comment about this JSF moment in 2000: The House roll call pertaining to the JSF letter from California is here.
    The vote was a lopsided 382 to 31. California Democrats voted 22 to 5 in favor. California Republicans were 24 to 0 with 1 abstention. Indeed, in the whole nation only 4 Republicans voted no. It does support the contention that Republicans are more in the pockets of aerospace companies than Democrats are.

    One of the Republican noes was the wise Vern Ehlers, the only sitting Senator with a PhD in physics. The same Vern Ehlers has consistently maintained that space station and missile defense are both bogus. The man is honest and brave enough to vote against his party on both issues.