The House Science Committee is holding its markup of a NASA authorization bill this morning (the meeting has been delayed two hours to 11:15 am EDT.) The bill will, presumably, be approved by the full committee, although it may be on a party-line vote as was the case in last week’s subcommittee markup.
However, there may be a little excitement in today’s markup. Space News reported late yesterday that Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) will introduce an amendment that would create a commission to study whether to close NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The “Center Realignment and Closure Commission” would look at consolidating rocket development and test activities currently conducted at Marshall and the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, as well as relocating all Marshall activities to either Stennis or the Johnson Space Center. It’s unclear what prompted Edwards, the ranking member of the space subcommittee, to consider such an amendment; last week, when she introduced an alternative version of an authorization bill in the subcommittee, she courted Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), whose district includes Marshall, by highlighting the increased authorized spending levels for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in her version of the bill.
While Edwards’s amendment may be a long shot to be approved by the committee, something that may have greater odds of passage is a change to section 215 of the authorization act, which calls for the use of “cost-type” contracts for future phases of NASA’s commercial crew program. Full committee vice-chairman Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) criticized that provision in the subcommittee’s markup last week and said he understood his concerns would be addressed before the full committee takes up the bill. Asked about the status of those efforts yesterday at the Future Space 2013 conference in Washington, Rohrabacher instead summarized his objections to that provision without providing an update on any efforts within the committee to address his issues with it.