House Votes on NASA Authorization, Intelligence Authorization and CR Today

House Votes on NASA Authorization, Intelligence Authorization and CR Today

UPDATE: Thanks to a NASA Tweet we were finally able to find Charlie Bolden’s statement posted on a NASA website. Kudos to NASAWatch for making it publicly available earlier.

The House Majority Leader’s list of legislation to be voted on today in the House includes, as expected, the Senate version of the NASA authorization bill, as well as the FY2010 intelligence authorization bill, and a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating until December 3. Several other bills also will be considered today, and votes on bills debated yesterday also must be taken, so it is difficult to guess when the NASA authorization vote will occur.

The bill is being brought up under a procedure called “suspension of the rules” where the House agrees to suspend the regular rules and pass a bill as long as it can garner a two-thirds vote in favor. It is usually used for non-controversial bills where a two-thirds vote is considered very likely. There is no guarantee that the NASA bill will achieve that threshold, but the Democratic leadership apparently feels sufficiently confident of success. According to NASAWatch, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden issued a statement supporting the Senate bill today.

This is an authorization bill that does not provide any funding to NASA. Rather it sets policy and authorizes (permits) programs to begin. Only appropriations bills give money to agencies to spend. The appropriations bill for fiscal year 2011, which begins on Friday, that includes NASA — the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill — has not yet been reported from the House Appropriations Committee. The CJS subcommittee marked it up in June, but there has been no further action.

Congress has not passed any of the FY2011 apppropriations bills, thus it will pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will fund agencies through December 3, 2010 at their FY2010 funding levels unless an exception is made. The Senate is expected to vote on the CR first today, and then the House. Both chambers are expected to adjourn today or tomorrow until after the November elections, returning on November 15 at last report.

Thus, if the NASA authorization bill passes the House and is signed by the President, NASA will have more clarity about its future direction, but it will not have any additional funds to execute it. That step will await Congress when it returns.

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