The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved Tuesday legislation that would extend NASA’s existing waiver under the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA), allowing it to continue to purchase Soyuz spacecraft from Russia. The approval is a key but only an initial step to get the bill through Congress. The bill still has to make it through the Senate by unanimous consent, where even a single objection could stop the bill. No senator has stepped forward publicly in opposition to the bill, but Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) told Florida Today that “we’ve got a couple in the Senate that we have to worry about”, without naming any names.
One member of the House that is opposed to the bill, Dave Weldon (R-FL), appears to be offering a compromise that would ease the bill’s passage through Congress. That compromise would involve a short-term extension of the waiver (the current bill, S. 3103, would extend the waiver for Soyuz purchases until either Orion or a commercial vehicle becomes available) while also extending the life of the shuttle beyond 2010. “This is in the discussion phase, so stay tuned,” Weldon told Florida Today.