What's Happening in Space Policy November 9-13, 2015

What's Happening in Space Policy November 9-13, 2015

Here is our list of space policy related events for the week of November 9-13, 2015 and any insight we can offer about them.  The Senate is in session this week except for Wednesday (Veterans Day, a federal holiday). The House is in recess all week.

During the Week

NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman will become more widely known in the DC-area space community this week as she speaks at two luncheons — the Maryland Space Business Roundtable on Tuesday in Greenbelt, MD, and the Washington Space Business Roundtable on Thursday in Washington, DC.   She also will speak to the annual meeting of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research on Wednesday morning at 8:30 am ET (will be webcast — h/t to NASAWatch’s Keith Cowing for bringing it to our attention).  These are not her first public speeches since being sworn in last May, but she has kept a relatively low profile until now. Should be interesting to hear what she has to say, though it’s easy to guess that NASA’s “Journey to Mars” and “inspiration” slogans will be repeatedly repeated.

The American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) holds its annual meeting this week at National Harbor, MD, just outside Washington, DC.   DPS is the key event where planetary scientists announce new discoveries and with all that’s been going on this year, it should be a treasure trove of news throughout the week.  Press briefings are scheduled Monday-Thursday at lunchtime and although the live webcasts are only available to journalists, they will be archived and then anyone can watch them.   On Friday, DPS chair Bonnie Buratti (JPL) will moderate a lunch-time briefing on Capitol Hill (385 Russell) to highlight key findings, with New Horizons PI Alan Stern, NEOWISE PI Amy Mainzer, and Georgia Tech graduate student Mary Beth Wilhelm who studies biomarkers on Mars and is a science team collaborator for the Curiosity mission.

On Capitol Hill, the House is taking the week off, but the Senate will be hard at work except for Veterans Day (Wednesday).  On Tuesday, it plans to vote on the revised version of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).   President Obama vetoed the original bill in large part because of a “gimmick” used by Republicans to add money for defense without increasing funds for non-defense activities.  Now that the White House and Congress have agreed to the budget/debt limit bill, the NDAA has been revised to fit within those funding caps by cutting $5 billion.  The new bill, S. 1356, passed the House on Friday.  The policy provisions remain the same and the President objected to two of them in his veto message (that the bill prevented needed reforms and did not allow the closing of Guantanamo), but the White House has not issued a new veto threat on the revised bill.

The NDAA is an authorization bill that sets policy and recommends funding levels.  Only appropriations bills actually give money to agencies, and Senate Democrats blocked consideration of the defense appropriations bill last week because of concern that if that bill moves forward on its own, Republicans might not pass the non-defense appropriations bills and force the rest of the government to operate under a year-long Continuing Resolution (CR) instead.  The current CR expires on December 11, so they have that much time to reach agreement or a new CR, either short- or long-term, will be needed.  The House is scheduled to be in session for only 12 days between now and then.  The Senate plans to be in session throughout that period except for the week of Thanksgiving (November 23-27).

The fate of the Export-Import Bank is now in the hands of conferees on H.R. 22, the surface transportation bill that passed the House last week.  The House has already appointed some conferees, but said more will be appointed in the future.  The Senate has not appointed its conferees yet.  The main purpose of the bill is to fund transportation infrastructure projects (highways, rail, etc) that currently are authorized only through November 20, so there is some urgency to get the bill finalized.  We have reported on the  travails of the Export-Import Bank at length, so will not repeat its tortuous history here.  If you need to catch up on what’s been going, type Export-Import Bank into the search box at the top of our main page.

The Senate might also take up the compromise version of the Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness bill, but Sen. Bill Nelson’s optimism a week and a half ago that it would be acted on quickly seems to have run into a snag.

All the events we know about as of Sunday morning for the coming week are listed below.  Check back throughout the week to see any new events that get added to our Events of Interest list.

Sunday-Friday, November 8-13

Monday, November 9

Monday-Friday, November 9-13

Tuesday, November 10

Tuesday-Thursday, November 10-12

Wednesday-Saturday, November 11-14

Thursday, November 12

Thursday-Friday, November 12-13

Friday, November 13

Note:  This article was updated with the information about the ASGSR meeting.

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