House to move forward on Senate version of NASA authorization bill

Amanda Carey Contributor
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Monday afternoon saw good news for pro-NASA reformists everywhere. What at one time appeared to be a never-ending struggle over the future of the nation’s space agency, now looks like something that could be wrapped up in just a matter of days.

In a statement released by Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee, the chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology announced that the House would vote on the Senate’s version of the NASA reauthorization act Wednesday.

As the Daily Caller previously reported, President Obama revealed his plan for NASA just last April. And though surprisingly pro-free market, the plan met much opposition on the Hill from both sides of the aisle. The plan would, among other things, include a program to jumpstart a commercial space transportation industry.

Lawmakers, however, labeled the bill a jobs killer and the beginning of the end for NASA’s glory days. Thus, both chambers came up with alternative plans. The Senate version, passed in July, kept most of the president’s proposal, while keeping intact various NASA programs popular with their constituents.

The House version, conversely, kept much of the old system in place by throwing more money at the Ares1 program, though development keeps getting delayed (it was supposed to get astronauts to the moon again by the end of this decade).

But now it seems the House version is heading to the legislative trash bin.

“I anticipate that the House will consider the Senate version of the NASA reauthorization on Wednesday,” said Gordon’s statement, though he did note he still had some objections to the Senate bill. “[F]or the sake of providing certainty, stability, and clarity to the NASA workforce and larger space community, I felt it was better to consider a flawed bill than no bill at all as the new fiscal year begins.”

Gordon’s press release did not mention exactly when on Wednesday the bill will be considered or how the vote will take place.

“Cleary this is step in right direction,” Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty, told The Daily Caller. The Institute gathered thousands of letters from the constituents of Democratic Reps. Alan Grayson of Florida and Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona opposing the House version, and delivered them to the Hill last week.

“It’s obvious the House has recognized there is tremendous public interest in ensuring NASA policy is based on sound fiscal footing,” said Langer, who also noted it just goes to show how important constituent outreach is. “This gives us an opening to the entrée of space pork.”

As for the future of NASA, space policy expert Rand Simberg says it’s about time NASA spends its money wisely.

“We need to keep the focus up on spending the money smart, rather than asking for more money,” Simberg told TheDC.