What’s Happening in Space Policy January 3-9, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 3-9, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of January 3-9, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

At noon today (Sunday), the 116th Congress ends and the 117th Congress begins. Any legislation that did not make it into law by noon must begin again in the new Congress.

In case you missed it, the Senate joined the House in overriding President Trump’s veto of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act on Friday (January 1), so that bill did make it over the finish line.  Not so for a new NASA authorization act, a commercial space bill like the Space Frontier Act, or the SPACE Act introduced by Senator Wicker.  Lots left on the plate for the new Congress.

The House meets in a pro forma session today at 10:00 am ET to close out the 116th, and at noon to begin the 117th by swearing in the new membership. Democrats retain control of the House, but by a much slimmer margin: 218  are required to hold the majority and the new Congress begins with 222 Democrats, 211 Republicans, and two vacancies (one race in New York is undecided; Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, 41, just elected to his first term, died of COVID-19 on December 29).  Nancy Pelosi is expected to be reelected as Speaker of the House today, although the situation is complicated by the narrow margin and the fact that some members may not be able to be at the Capitol in person because of COVID. In-person voting is required because the rule that allowed members to vote remotely expires along with the 116th Congress and the vote for Speaker is the first of the 117th Congress.  The remote-voting rule likely will be reinstated quickly, however, perhaps tomorrow. [UPDATE: Pelosi was reelected as Speaker 216-209.]

The Senate meets in pro forma session at 11:45 am ET today to close out its 116th activities and, like the House, at noon to begin the 117th.  The Senate remains under Republican control, with Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader, at least for now with 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats (including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats), and one vacancy.  Depending on the results of the January 5 Georgia run-off elections, the Senate will be 52-48 Republican, 51-49 Republican, or 50-50 with the Vice President as the tie-breaker and thus the determinant of which party is in control. Under those circumstances, it would be under Republican control while Mike Pence remains Vice President (until January 20) and Democratic control once Kamala Harris is inaugurated.

From a space policy standpoint, the significance of these close margins for the next two years is that passing any type of legislation will be that much more difficult.  Space may be a largely bipartisan issue, but it does not exist in a vacuum (pun intended).  If there is partisan gridlock in Congress, it affects everything.

Wednesday is expected to be very contentious as Congress counts the Electoral College results. We will stay in our swim lane, space policy, and not comment further.  Anyone interested in that aspect of the week ahead can consult sources like Politico, National Journal, and The Hill, along with many national news sources.

We know of only four space policy-related events this week, one of which is a fireside chat on Thursday between Kendra Horn and the Aerospace Corporation’s Jamie Morin.  Horn chaired the space subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee in the 116th Congress. The only Democrat in the Oklahoma delegation, she lost her bid for reelection.  She worked for the Space Foundation before getting into the political fray and is one of the people mentioned as a potential future NASA Administrator.  In any case, her views just days after leaving Congress should be quite interesting.

The 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.

Sunday, January 3

Wednesday, January 6

Thursday, January 7


Correction:  Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) is filling the unexpired term of Sen. Johnny Isakson, so she remains a Senator in the 117th Congress and the split is 51-48, not 50-48, as originally stated, with one vacancy, not two.

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.