What’s Happening in Space Policy January 20-26, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 20-26, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of January 20-26, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate will be in session at least part of the week.

During the Week

This week begins with a federal holiday to commemorate Martin Luther King’s birthday. Those government employees who are still working for pay will get the day off with pay.  For anyone who is furloughed or “excepted,” check OPM’s website for information on what happens with paid holidays under the current circumstances.

The House and Senate were scheduled to be in recess this week, but now will meet to continue working on legislation to reopen NASA, NOAA and other departments and agencies funded by seven of the 12 regular appropriations bills that lapsed on December 21, 2018.

The House plans to debate and likely pass another collection of six of the seven bills, including the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NOAA.  They passed such a “consolidated” appropriations bill on January 3 using versions of those bills that already passed the Senate or were reported from the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The premise was that if the bills cleared the Senate or the committee on a broad bipartisan basis once, they should pass again.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to bring that, or other FY2019 appropriations bills the House passed subsequently, to the Senate floor for a vote, however.

This week, the House will try another tack.  Instead of the versions of the bills that were approved by the Senate or committee, it will use the texts that emerged from conference negotiations last fall, but were never voted on by either chamber.  In that version, NASA would get $21.5 billion and NOAA’s satellite programs would get $1.455 billion.

Assuming it passes the House, at this instant it does not seem to have much of a chance in the Senate though.  McConnell is adamant that he will not bring any FY2019 appropriations legislation up for a vote unless President Trump supports it.   To become law, any piece of legislation must pass the House and Senate and be signed by the President.  If the President vetoes it, Congress can override the veto with a 2/3 vote of each chamber.

Trump announced on Saturday that he wants to trade 3-year temporary relief for certain immigrants (DACA recipients and those holding temporary status) in exchange for $5.7 billion for border barriers (not a concrete wall from sea to sea as he has demanded in the past, but “steel barriers in high priority locations”), plus $1.605 billion for other border security initiatives and humanitarian assistance, and more immigration judges, border agents, and law enforcement professionals.  McConnell will bring legislation to the Senate floor for a vote this week with those provisions.

Trump called it a “path forward” to ending the partial government shutdown.  Democrats insist Trump end the shutdown first before they will negotiate over immigration because government workers should not be held hostage to a policy dispute.  They also object to Trump offering a temporary, not a permanent, solution for those immigrants while requiring Democrats to agree to permanent funding for his initiatives.

This is a very dynamic situation.  The partial shutdown will end when the politicians who are using the immigration issue to solidify their bases as the 2020 presidential election looms determine they are losing more political points than they are winning.

Meanwhile, the partial shutdown begins its 30th day tomorrow, with 800,000 federal employees being forced to work, or prohibited from working, without pay including those at NASA and NOAA.  CBS News space reporter Bill Harwood has a very informative story about how the shutdown is affecting the commercial crew and other NASA programs.

With Congress focused on FY2019 appropriations and NASA and NOAA shut down, the space policy scene in Washington remains quiet.  The WSBR luncheon with the Department of Commerce’s Kevin O’Connell that was scheduled for Thursday has been cancelled because of the shutdown.

DOD is not shut down because it got its FY2019 appropriations back in September.  Trump released the new Missile Defense Review last week that has a lot to say not only about space-based sensors, but renewed interest in space-based interceptors.  The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance will hold a roundtable discussion on Wednesday on Capitol Hill to discuss “Expanding the Mission of Missile Defense.”  John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, are the speakers.

The Mid-Atlantic chapter of Society of Space Professionals International (SSPI-MA) will hold its annual scholarship fundraiser on Thursday evening at SES’s offices in Reston, VA.

The American Society of International Law will hold a discussion on space debris the same evening in D.C.  Steve Mirmina, an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law, and Jessica Noble from Nanoracks, are the speakers.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar (or are canceled).

Monday, January 21

Wednesday, January 23

Thursday, January 24


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