While the Obama campaign issued a statement Monday generally supporting a wide variety of options for dealing with the Shuttle-Constellation gap, Senator Obama is being a little more specific. In a letter from Obama’s Senate office to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Obama explicitly calls for an extension of NASA’s INKSNA waiver so that the US can “keep that option open” for accessing the station after 2011. Also, he asks that Congress demand that NASA do nothing “that would make it more difficult or expensive” beyond 2010, similar to what John McCain and two other Republican senators requested of the president last month. Finally, Obama asks for unspecified additional funding for NASA in FY 2009 to fund an additional shuttle flight that’s included in the NASA authorization bill.
While these requests are more specific than the general claims in his campaign’s message to the Orlando Sentinel, they fit into the same theme of keeping as many options open as possible for the next administration, as this paragraph in the letter explains:
Administrator Griffin has initiated an analysis of the third option to determine its feasibility, cost, and schedule implications. The results should be available in the November timeframe so that the President-elect’s transition team can prepare appropriate action along with appropriate FY2010 budgeting. NASA’s appropriators, however, should be prepared to consider increasing NASA’s budget to extend safe Shuttle operations beyond 2010 and to accelerate government and private-sector efforts to provide human access to low-earth orbit. Any effort to extend the Shuttle program must receive adequate funding, ensuring that progress on developing new vehicles is not further delayed by diverting funds to the Shuttle.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, is scheduled to take up the waiver extension bill today during a business session. The Sentinel reports that, so far, Congressman Dave Weldon, who opposes the extension, has failed to win over other lawmakers, including Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida. However, as the article notes, there’s limited time to get the bill through, and since supporters are trying the unanimous consent approach, a single senator could block the bill. Moreover, Congress’s bandwidth is consumed right now with the financial bailout proposal, so it’s not clear how much time members in either house will give to other legislation like this before they’re scheduled to adjourn by the end of next week.