With the Senate moving ahead with an authorization bill, what will the House do? “As the ranking member of the House authorizing committee, I’m eager to reauthorize NASA and get the train back on track,” Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), ranking member of the House Science and Technology Committee, said earlier this week at a Space Transportation Association breakfast on Capitol Hill. “I think it’s possible… It’s something we absolutely have to do.”
That committee is drafting its version of an authorization bill, but Hall said the Democratic leadership of the committee has not shared any details about the legislation with him. “The chairman has not shared a bill with us,” Hall said, referring to committee chairman Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). “But I’m hopeful we’re going to get some of these things in there by the end of September” because if the process extends beyond that, he said, it would be hard to get anything done. “Some of these things” referred to his priorities for NASA: human spaceflight, a “balanced” science program (expressing concern about an outsized increase in Earth sciences funding), and aeronautics research. For human spaceflight Hall indicated his support for Constellation, which he said “would have provide a logical job transition path for workers coming off the Space Shuttle contracts, and kept the faith with international partners.”
Hall didn’t indicate in his remarks his opinion of the Senate bill, but one key House member endorsed the bill on Thursday. “I applaud the Senate Commerce Committee for reporting out a NASA authorization bill that embraces our compromise proposal on exploration,” said Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, in a post on The Hill’s Congress Blog. The “compromise proposal” he refers to is a letter he and about 60 other members of the House signed last month, asking President Obama to begin the immediate development of a heavy-lift launch vehicle.
Wolf’s subcommittee, when it took an up an appropriations bill late last month, elected not to take a stand and defer to authorizers on the future direction of NASA’s human spaceflight plans. “I hope the House Science Committee will similarly adopt this compromise and consider its authorization bill,” Wolf wrote yesterday. “As ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, I believe it’s important for the authorizers to signal their support so that we can enshrine this new policy in the fiscal year 2011 appropriations bill.”