Space Policy Events for the Week of February 18-22, 2013

Space Policy Events for the Week of February 18-22, 2013

The following events may be of interest in the week ahead.  The House and Senate are in recess this week for the President’s Day holiday.

During the Week

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the coming week is what is NOT happening.   Congress is in recess rather than trying to solve the issue of whether the sequester will go into effect on March 1 or not.   Nothing seems to have changed on that front.  Both parties and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue warn about the dire consequences if it goes into effect, assert they they have a reasonable alternative plan, and then put forward the same plans that have failed to garner sufficient support in the past.  Republicans continue to insist on reducing the deficit by spending cuts alone while Democrats continue to insist on a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.  The most recent plan, by Senate Democrats, would cut $110 billion from the deficit — $55 billion through spending cuts, $55 billion through tax increases on the wealthiest taxpayers — through the beginning of 2014.

Last week a number of hearings were held spelling out the effects of the sequester on defense and non-defense agencies.   The Senate Appropriations Committee published a series of letters from a large number of agencies (including NASA, NOAA’s parent Department of Commerce, and the Department of Defense) while the Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee circulated their own analysis.  There is no good news in any of it, but no solution is evident and the betting inside the beltway is that the $85 billion in cuts for FY2013 alone will, in fact, take place.  Those cuts would have to be absorbed by September 30 of this year making them particularly difficult.

Very little is ever certain in Washington, however, and perhaps with the week’s break, an alternative plan that can win support from all parties will yet emerge.

At the same time, Senate Republicans successfully blocked the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the new Secretary of Defense last week through a procedural move that prevented the nomination from being brought to the Senate floor for consideration.  The Senate will return to the issue next week.  After a week’s delay, it may be that a sufficient number of Republicans will join with Democrats in allowing the nomination to be considered on an up or down vote wherein he would need only 51 votes (instead of 60) to win.   With 53 Democrats and two Independents who usually vote with the Democrats, he is very likely to win that vote. 

Meanwhile, this week — while Congress hopefully is working behind the scenes instead of in front of the cameras — there are four space policy-related meetings that may be of interest.

Tuesday, February 19

 Wednesday, February 20

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