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House Breaks Without Action on NASA Spending Bill

The U.S. House recessed Sept. 24 without taking up athree-year NASA authorization bill, dimming prospects for passage of the nearly$50 billion measure before midterm elections Nov. 2.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said votes on allbills were postponeduntil Sept. 29, when the chamber hopes to take up a stopgap spendingmeasure, known as a continuing resolution, to keep the government running atpresent spending levels past Sept. 30, when the current fiscal year ends.

?I was hopeful that we would be able to reach an agreementwith the Senate on a continuing resolution so that the House could act on ittomorrow, but while negotiations are progressing they are not complete,? Hoyersaid in a Sept. 23 statement. ?We will be back next week to complete action onit.?

Hours before Hoyer made his announcement, House Science andTechnology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) introduced a revisedversion of the NASAauthorization bill his committee originally approved in July. Gordoncharacterized the revamped measure as a ?compromise? negotiated over months inan effort that brings the legislation closer to a companion bill approved bythe full Senate Aug. 5.

?As a result, we believe we have a bill that both builds onand improves on H.R. 5781, the NASA Authorization Act that was marked up by theScience and Technology Committee earlier this year,? Gordon said in a Sept. 23statement. ?Moreover, we believe this compromise helps move the discussionabout the future of NASA closer to a final product.?

Gordon?s substitute measure calls for increasing spending oncommercial crew and cargo vehicles to $1.2 billion over three years. Thatfigure is still $400 million shy of the Senate?s $1.6 billion recommendationfor commercial crew and cargo initiatives, but represents a sizeable increaseover the original $464 million through 2013 recommended in H.R. 5781. [NASA'sNew Direction: FAQ]

Commercial space advocates said despite the recommendedfunding boost, Gordon?s compromise calls for numerous restrictions on privatespace taxi development. The Space Frontier Foundation said the bill has?numerous landmines,? including 24 separate restrictions on the development ofcommercial crew, which the group says is three times as many as contained inthe Senate measure.

In a media alert issued Sept. 23, the Space Access Societysaid Gordon?s bill places ?a whole tangle of reviews, reports, certifications,and other requirements on Commercial Crew, the general effect of which cannotbe other than to discourage such efforts.?

Both organizations took issue with language in the Housecompromise that could allow NASA to continue development of the Ares 1rocket and Orion crew capsule U.S. President Barack Obama seeks to abandon.They urged Congress to support the Senate version of the NASA bill, which theysee as a compromise between Obama?s proposed new direction for the agency andthe House panel?s revised H.R. 5781.

Even if Congress passes a NASA authorization bill this year,appropriations legislation is needed to fund the agency for the fiscal yearthat begins Oct. 1. Lawmakers are not expected to take up that legislationuntil they return for a lame-duck session after the elections.

This article was provided by Space News, dedicated tocovering all aspects of the space industry.

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