On Monday Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) announced plans to introduce legislation that would compel NASA to spend FY10 funds on Constellation. The “Protecting Human Space Flight Act of 2010″, which Aderholt said he was introducing Monday (it has not yet shown up in Thomas), would require NASA to spend remaining FY10 Constellation funds on that program, rather than reserve the funds to cover contract termination liabilities, as NASA is now doing. “NASA is putting jobs in jeopardy because of a drastic proposal that isn’t even actual law,” Aderholt said in the statement. The agency “should not be assuming that this plan will be approved by Congress and signed into law.”
While the legislation has a number of co-sponsors from both parties (primarily from states most affected by plans to cancel Constellation), one wonders if this bill is designed more to highlight the situation than to actually become law. As a standalone piece of legislation the bill’s chances of making it through the House and Senate and be signed by the president by the end of September (the end of the current fiscal year) appear slim. A better strategy would be to do as the Senate has done and attach language to a must-pass supplemental appropriations bill. This may, in fact, be their strategy, but as Aderholt himself states in his press release, introducing a bill can send a stronger message. “I hope this bill sends the message to the rest of the House or Representatives and the Administration that NASA must wait for Congress to act on its proposal and that our nation needs to make a commitment to properly fund the Constellation program to save jobs and make sure that America remains the leader in space,” he said.
Aderholt later told Huntsville TV station WHNT that the legislation would “end a message to these [Constellation] contractors, that we are moving forward, that Congress fully expects the Constellation program to be in effect, and therefore the money should be spent, as is dictated by the 2010 law.” He added that he believes “90% or more of Congress right now believes that Constellation is a good program,” but did not disclose how he reached that conclusion.