What's Happening in Space Policy October 26-31, 2015 – UPDATE

What's Happening in Space Policy October 26-31, 2015 – UPDATE

Here is our list of space policy events coming up during the week of October 26-31, 2015 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate will be in session. [This version was updated October 26 with more information about potential legislative action this week.]

During the Week

As usual, there are many interesting space policy events taking place
off the Hill this week.  To pick just three:  Tuesday through Thursday in
Huntsville, AL, the American Astronautical Society will hold its annual
von Braun Symposium; Wednesday in Washington, DC, NASA Administrator
Bolden will speak to the Center for American Progress on NASA’s future
human exploration plans; and Tuesday through Friday in Houston, TX, NASA
will hold the first workshop to identify potential landing sites on
Mars for human missions.

As for Congress, if all goes as planned, the House will elect Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to succeed Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker this week and Boehner will depart on Friday.  Ryan made it clear he did not want the job and agreed to do it only for the sake of the Republican Party.   He insisted that he would not do it unless he had unanimous support from House Republicans, including the roughly 40-member ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus that is widely blamed or credited with driving Boehner out.  It wasn’t entirely unanimous, but close enough apparently.   Ryan, who was the Republican candidate for Vice President in 2012 (on the ticket with Mitt Romney), demanded some changes in the duties of the Speaker, especially sharply reducing the Speaker’s role in fundraising for Republican members and candidates across the country, which kept Boehner on the road almost full time.  Pundits point out that the loyalty a Speaker engenders by traveling to districts to help at-risk candidates is part of what makes the House function and wonder if Paul’s reluctance to do so will constrain his leadership.  The House hasn’t been functioning very well in any case, so what these changes will mean for passing legislation, space-related or not, is entirely up in the air.

The legislation listed on the House Majority Leader’s website for action this week does not include two controversial bills that some hoped Boehner would get out of the way before Ryan takes over — reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and raising the debt limit.  Those could get added as the week progresses, but the House is in session only through Thursday and part of the time will be devoted to electing Ryan as Speaker.   [UPDATE, October 26National Journal
is predicting that Boehner will indeed bring up both the Ex-Im Bank
bill and a bill to raise the debt limit before Wednesday when the House
Republican Caucus votes on Ryan’s bid to become Speaker.  The idea is that Boehner is willing to use Democratic votes to get those bills passed even though many Republicans oppose them, which would be a risky posture for Ryan as a new Speaker.]

Rep. Steve Fincher (R-TN) got enough signatures on his discharge petition for the Export-Import Bank to move that legislation out of the Financial Services committee to the floor, but no vote was taken last week.  During a meeting of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) on October 21, a COMSTAC member said the bill would come to a vote on Monday (October 26), but it is not on the House Majority Leader’s list.   The comment was made while Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) was addressing the group and Kilmer warned that “procedural shenanigans” should be expected to prevent a vote.  He supports reauthorization of the Bank.

Kilmer is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and was asked about the likelihood that the government will have to operate under a full-year Continuing Resolution (CR) of if the regular appropriations bills will pass collectively in an “omnibus” bill.  Kilmer said he hopes there will be an omnibus that gets rid of the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.   He joked that he had never heard of sequestration until he ran for Congress three years ago and had to look it up and discovered it is “Latin for stupid.”

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) also addressed COMSTAC and expressed confidence that House-Senate agreement on a final version of commercial space legislation will be reached “very shortly.”  Babin, a freshman, is the new chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Space Subcommittee, replacing Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) who moved over to the Appropriations Committee.

The House could try to override the President’s veto of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but that is not on the schedule either at the moment.  The House would deal with it first because the bill, H.R. 1735, originated there.

All the events we know about as of Sunday morning are listed below.  Check back throughout the week for additions to our Events of Interest list on our main page.

Monday, October 26

Tuesday, October 27

Tuesday-Thursday, October 27-29

Tuesday-Friday, October 27-30

Wednesday, October 28

Wednesday-Thursday, October 28-29

Thursday-Friday, October 29-30

Friday, October 30

Friday-Saturday, October 30-31

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