House To Take Up Defense, Weather, Commercial Space Bills This Month

House To Take Up Defense, Weather, Commercial Space Bills This Month

In a letter to House Republicans yesterday, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) laid out a packed agenda of national security and “innovation” bills that the House will debate and vote on this month.  The House is in recess this coming week, but will return May 12 for two weeks of work before recessing again for Memorial Day.

McCarthy’s list of bills does not include the NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 that cleared the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on a party line vote on April 30.

Among the “innovation” bills that will be considered during the week of May 18-21 are the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act that was approved by the House SS&T Committee on March 26.  It is not focused on weather satellites per se, but includes a pilot program to encourage the private sector to build and launch commercial systems to provide weather data that NOAA would purchase.   Also on McCarthy’s list is a “Commercial Space Bill” that has not yet been introduced.  It is described as facilitating a “pro-growth environment for the developing commercial space industry.”  A draft update of the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) has been circulating on the Hill for several weeks, but this bill apparently will be broader, dealing with other aspects of commercial space activities.   The other innovation bills are not directly related to space activities.

But first the House will debate the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was approved by the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) on April 30.  H.R. 1735 includes funding and policy direction for most national security space programs.  For example, iIt would modify the language in last year’s NDAA regarding the timeline for replacing Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine with an American-built engine.  Existing law requires that to happen by 2019.  The bill would add more flexibility. summarized the space-related provisions on April 23 that were adopted by the Strategic Forces subcommittee, and, on April 30, space-related amendments added during full committee markup.

The NDAA will be debated during the week of May 12-15 along with two other national security bills that are not directly space related.

Those bills will all be debated by the House as a whole this month.  Other legislation may be working its way through committees.  The Commercial Space Act listed by McCarthy is one.  Under regular procedure, it would be introduced, hearings held, followed by subcommittee markup and then full committee markup, but any of those steps (except introduction) can be skipped, especially if the majority is confident it has the votes to pass it.  McCarthy represents the district in California that includes Edwards Air Force Base and the Mojave Air and Space Port.  He introduced the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act in the last Congress.  House SS&T held a hearing in November 2013, but no further action was taken.  It would not be surprising if the substance of that bill is incorporated in the new legislation.

The House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee may also markup its FY2016 bill in May although the committee has not announced its schedule for the month yet.  The committee has approved three of the 12 regular appropriations bills already and two (Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Energy and Water ) have passed the House.

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