Despite declared bipartisan support for a bill that would relive NASA of the requirement to withhold funds on key projects as a hedge against payout if they’re cancelled, the House Science Committee delayed markup of that bill on Thursday until next week. As discussed here earlier this week, HR 3625 would require NASA not to withhold funds for termination liability for the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, and International Space Station; the bill would also prevent NASA from canceling those programs unless a future law directed NASA to do so. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), whose district includes NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, introduced the bill earlier this week and collected 15 co-sponsors, both Republicans and Democrats.
Despite the support, the bill stumbled during the Science Committee’s markup session Thursday morning. Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) said in his opening statement that Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) had an amendment for the bill. He did not disclose what the amendment was about but it’s widely believed to try any include the James Webb Space Telescope in the “covered programs” of the bill, giving it the same protection from cancellation and maintaining termination liability reserves as the SLS, Orion, and ISS. However, when HR 3625 came up for consideration as the last of four bills of the day, it was clear that Brooks and Edwards were still discussing the proposed amendment, and after some delay Smith decided to recess the markup until 2 pm Tuesday to allow them to work out whatever differences they have about the proposed amendment. With House leadership planning to adjourn as soon as the end of next week, it was unlikely the bill would be considered by the full House before January even if the committee approved it yesterday.