What's Happening in Space Policy October 19-23, 2015

What's Happening in Space Policy October 19-23, 2015

Here is our list of space policy related events for the week of October 19-23, 2015 and any insight we can offer about them.  The Senate returns to work tomorrow (Monday) and the House on Tuesday.

During the Week

Congress does not have any public events on the schedule that are specifically about the space program, but a vote could come early this week on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.   Rep. Steve Fincher (R-TN) succeeded in getting the 218 signatures he needed for a discharge petition to move the bill out of the Financial Services Committee to the House floor for a vote.  He and other Ex-Im supporters have long asserted that there are more than enough votes in the House to pass a reauthorization if only the Members were given the chance.  We soon may find out if they are correct.

Behind the scenes, efforts reportedly are continuing to reach agreement on a final version of commercial space legislation that passed the House and Senate earlier this year (H.R. 2262/S. 1297).  The FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) will hold its quarterly meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, so a progress report may be presented there.  Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), who chairs the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) will speak on Wednesday morning at 8:30 am ET and 11:15 am ET respectively.  The meeting will be webcast (see the agenda for instructions).

The FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) may finally be sent to the White House.  The President will have 10 days (not including Sundays) to decide whether to sign or veto it.  The bill, H.R. 1735, cleared Congress on October 7.  It is not uncommon for clerks to need a few days to make “technical and conforming changes” to ensure there are no typos and that cross references are correct, and Congress was in recess last week, so it is still on the Hill, not in the Oval Office, and the clock has not started ticking.  President Obama has often threatened to veto the NDAA, but never has.  The dispute this year is over top level government-wide budgetary issues, not defense policy, however, so the dynamics are somewhat different.

The House has eight working days (four this week, four next week) before House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) resigns, according to his original plan at least.  Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s withdrawal from the Speaker’s race threw the leadership process into turmoil.  Boehner said he would not leave before a successor is in place, so time will tell if he gets to close the door behind him by the end of the month or not.  In the meantime, Congress needs to pass a reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund bill by October 29 and raise the debt limit by November 3.   Since Boehner has demonstrated willingness to use Democratic votes to get critical legislation passed when the right wing of his party creates roadblocks, he could use the eight days to get those two tasks done, at least.   The United States exceeded the $18.1 trillion debt limit in March and the Treasury Department has been using “extraordinary measures” to pay the bills (by not paying its share into the retirement accounts of federal employee for example).  Its ability to scrape by that way is running out.  On Thursday, Treasury notified Congress that the last day is November 3, two days earlier than a previous projection.

As for funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year, the Continuing Resolution runs out on December 11.  Not much progress is being reported on talks among Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Obama on an overall agreement on spending caps through the end of the presidential election next year.  Boehner’s imminent departure is one handicap, but in Washington little gets done until the last minute anyway.  A lot will depend on who replaces Boehner as House Speaker and how well that person works with McConnell.  McConnell and Boehner have been united on their rejection of government shutdowns as a political strategy (they both also pledge they will never allow the government to default on its debt).

Off the Hill, there is an array of fascinating meetings scheduled for the coming week.  In addition to COMSTAC, the annual Space Weather Enterprise Forum is on Tuesday and Wednesday (note that it is in different locations on those two days); NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) meets Tuesday-Thursday in Columbia, MD; and the NASA Advisory Council’s Astrophysics Subcommittee meets at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center on Thursday and Friday.

Women in Aerospace will hold its 30th annual awards ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington, VA  on Thursday night.  

The same night but a few hundred miles away in Dayton, OH, the National Museum of the Air Force will hold what promises to be a fascinating panel discussion on the 1960’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) space station program (cancelled before it was built).  Six of the men selected for the MOL astronaut corps will talk about the program.  Three of them transferred to NASA after MOL was cancelled, one of whom, Dick Truly, eventually became NASA Administrator.  Unfortunately, the museum says it will not webcast the event, but audio will be posted on its website a week or two later and DVDs will be available for loan at some point.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday afternoon are listed below.  Check the Events of Interest calendar on our main page for updates throughout the week.

Tuesday-Wednesday, October 20-21

  • COMSTAC, 429 L’Enfant Plaza, Washington, DC
  • Space Weather Enterprise Forum
    October 20:  902 Hart Senate Office Building
    October 21:  Department of Commerce Building auditorium, 14th Street and Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC

Tuesday-Thursday, October 20-22

Wednesday-Thursday, October 21-22

Thursday, October 22

Thursday-Friday, October 22-23

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