Space News reported late this morning that a vote on the NASA authorization bill by the full House now appears unlikely before the August recess. While individual lobbying may have helped play a role, other factors also contributed, including a letter by 13 House members from California–all Democrats–to science committee chairman Rep. Bart Gordon that technology development and commercial crew program funding be restored in the bill. The bill also required some modifications, replacing a $100-million-a-year loan guarantee program for commercial crew with a similarly-sized grant program after the Congressional Budget Office raised concerns about the long-term cost of the loan guarantee program. Making those changes while still moving the bill through under suspension of the rules may not have been possible, Space News reports, because of opposition from California and other House members.
While action on the bill may be postponed, organizations and companies continue to take stances both in favor and against the legislation. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) released a letter supporting the House NASA authorization bill, calling it a “viable way forward for NASA and America’s human space flight program”, while at the same time the union’s web site posted a note citing a recent report that it claims “slams space privatization”. However, two other unions, the American Federation of Government Employees and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, opposed the bill in a joint letter, in part because of plans to bring it to the floor with minimal debate. “This kind of process pushes the arrogant perspective that parliamentary tactics can be used to supplant thoughtful legislative deliberation.”
Meanwhile, despite considerable differences between the House and Senate versions of the NASA authorization legislation, Lockheed Martin indicates that it supports both bills. There’s a good reason for that, of course: both include funding for a crewed vehicle much like, if not identical to, Orion. “We commend the cooperation between Congress and the Administration in achieving this important step to assure continued U.S. leadership in space,” Lockheed’s John Karas said in a statement. Just how much cooperation there is between the two branches of government, or even between the House and Senate, is an open question.