Update 11:45 pm: The House did pass the bill in a recorded vote by well over the two-thirds margin needed: 304-118.
For about 45 minutes this evening the House debated S. 3729, the NASA authorization bill. Because the bill is taken up under suspension of the rules, the debate was relatively streamlined, with no opportunity for introducing amendments. Most of those speaking, including Reps. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ralph Hall (R-TX), and Pete Olson (R-TX), were reluctantly in favor of the bill, saying it wasn’t perfect but it was better than none at all. Some of the claims bordered on (or perhaps were fully) hyperbolic: Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) claimed that if the House didn’t pass the bill, President Obama would succeed in shutting down the nation’s human spaceflight program by the end of the year.
A notable exception was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), chair of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, who spoke “in strong opposition” to the bill, calling it a “bad bill” that the House should vote down. Over the course of about seven minutes she laid out her issues with the bill, ranging from a lack of funding specified for an additional shuttle mission to a heavy-lift launch vehicle “designed by our colleagues” in the Senate as opposed to engineers, to its support of “would be” commercial providers.
The speaker pro tem declared at the end of the debate that the yeas had won the voice vote, but after a bit of an awkward pause, Giffords formally requested a recorded (roll call) vote. That will take place later tonight; perhaps much later, as the House is now moving on to debate the continuing resolution to fund the government after Thursday. The vote will take place tonight, though, as Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced this evening that the House will adjourn after tonight’s votes until November 15th, after the mid-term elections. Note that under suspension of the rules the bill will need a two-thirds majority to pass.