Cruz Skeptical of FY2021 Appropriations, Other Legislation Passing This Year

Cruz Skeptical of FY2021 Appropriations, Other Legislation Passing This Year

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) expressed skepticism tonight that any FY2021 appropriations bills, including NASA’s, will pass this year.  His outlook for other legislation, like a new NASA authorization bill or his Space Frontier Act, is almost as gloomy.  While hopeful that space will remain a bipartisan issue, he was harshly critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and is not convinced she will allow any legislation favorable to the Trump Administration to clear the House.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Cruz spoke at a Space Transportation Association event this evening on Capitol Hill that was also attended by Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), a close friend and member of the Texas delegation who serves on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

Asked whether he thinks NASA’s budget request — a 12 percent increase over FY2020, but which excludes a number of congressional priorities — will pass, he replied “I don’t know.”

Exploration is the “heart of NASA’s mission” and he is happy the Administration prioritized it, but in “this broken political environment, I don’t know if we’re going to have any appropriations.  I think it is entirely possible that we won’t see any appropriations passed in 2020. I think the Senate would be more than ready to go forward with it, but it’s not clear to me that the House in the current environment is interested in anything but fighting the President.”

Weber agreed.  He is concerned about China taking leadership in low Earth orbit. The space program “ought to be the one area where we can come together in a very bipartisan manner and get things done. STEM education. American pride.”

Cruz was not optimistic about a NASA authorization bill, either.  Pointing out that as chair of the space subcommittee in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for the past several years he led the effort to pass the most recent NASA authorization act in 2017, and got a new bill (S. 2800) through committee last year, he is “not sure” where the House is going.

“If they treat space as a partisan football, they will destroy the bipartisan cooperation that we’ve had going for a number of years.  In the Senate, we’re moving forward. …   I think it’s very doable in the Senate.” He urged those in attendance to talk to House members and convince them to maintain bipartisanship and “not let American leadership in space be on the chopping block.”

The bipartisan leadership of the House SS&T Committee introduced a NASA authorization bill (H.R. 5666) last month and it was approved by the Space and Aeronautics subcommittee.  However, during that markup, the two Republican co-sponsors, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), distanced themselves from some aspects of the legislation.  The bill has not moved to full committee markup yet.

Cruz also got a new version of the Space Frontier Act (S. 919) through his committee last year.  The bill deals with commercial space issues that involve the FAA (part of the Department of Transportation), the Department of Commerce, and NASA, all of which are within its jurisdiction.  That is not the case in the House, where the FAA’s activities are overseen by the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) committee.  An earlier version of the Space Frontier Act was defeated in the House at the end of the 115th Congress because the incoming chairman of the House T&I committee, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), believed the legislation was deficient in dealing with how to integrate commercial space launches and reentries into the National Airspace System.

Cruz said the bill is a priority in the Senate, but “jurisdictional turf battles” in the House remain a problem. “We haven’t been getting policy disagreements, we’re just getting a failure of the House to engage and demonstrate they want to come together. I  hope we get that. We’re gonna keep working.”

Passing legislation in a presidential election year is always challenging, with extended recesses limiting the number of legislative days and attention focused on election and reelection campaigns.

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