NASA Authorization Bill Headed for Vote in House

WASHINGTON? The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a NASAauthorizationbill as early as July 29 that would set funding levels and providepolicyguidance to the space agency over the next three years, according toHouseaides.

Thebill, approved by the House Science and Technology Committee July 22,fullyfunds NASA?s $19 billion request for the fiscal year that begins Oct.1, butguts a White House proposal to spend $5.9 billion over the next fiveyearsfostering development of commercial vehicles to ferry astronauts to and fromEarth orbit.

Althoughthe measure includes $150 million for privately developed space taxisthrough 2013 and another $300 million in the form of government-backedloans orloan guarantees, it would also continue much of the work being doneunderNASA?s Constellation program, a 5-year-old effort to build new rocketsandspacecraft optimized for lunar missions that the White House hastargeted fortermination.

Congressionalaides said the measure is expected to be brought to the House floor under a suspension of therules, a procedural move that limitsamendments to a bill during floor debate but which requires atwo-thirdsmajority vote to pass. Senior Democratic and Republican members of theHouseScience and Technology Committee, which drafted the bill, have met withHouseleaders to discuss the bill, according to a House aide, who said thememberswere ?reasonably confident? of obtaining the two-thirds majority voteneeded topass it.

Companionlegislation approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and TransportationCommittee July 15 would also reduce funding for commercial crew programs and continue spending on elementsof Constellation.

TheSenate billhas yet to see floor action, but if the House measure is approved, itwouldprovide guidance to House appropriators as they move forward with a2011spending package for NASA this fall. That measure is most likely tocome in theform of a continuing resolution in late September or early October thatwouldfund NASA at 2010 spending levels until a comprehensive 2011appropriation isapproved.

Thisstory was provided by SpaceNews,dedicated tocovering all aspects of the space industry.

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SpaceNews Staff Writer

Amy Klamper is a space reporter and former staff writer for the space industry news publication SpaceNews. From 2004 to 2010, Amy covered U.S. space policy, NASA and space industry professionals for SpaceNews. Her stories included profiles on major players in the space industry, space policy work in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as national policy set by the White House.