Where Key Space Legislation Stands Now: Fiscal Cliff, NDAA, Indemnification, INKSNA, Armstrong

Where Key Space Legislation Stands Now: Fiscal Cliff, NDAA, Indemnification, INKSNA, Armstrong

In these hectic last days of the 112th Congress — which will end by noon on Thursday when the 113th Congress begins — it can be tough to keep track of where legislation stands.   Here’s the status of key pending bills that could affect the space program as of 4:00 pm ET today, New Year’s Day 2013.

  • American Taxpayer Relief Act (H.R. 8) — or more descriptively referred to as the fiscal cliff avoidance act since it not only deals with taxes but delays the sequester for two months.    Passed Senate at 2:00 am this morning.   Still must pass House.  If they change it — and rumors are that they plan to —  the bill will have to go back to the Senate.  If the House passes it with no changes, it must be signed by the President.   So the country did fall off the much-feared fiscal cliff and is still at the bottom waiting to see what happens next.
  • FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310)Final version has passed the House and Senate.  It was presented to the President for his signature on December 30.   He’s expected to sign it.  Among other things, it eases export controls on satellites.
  • FY2013 Intelligence Authorization Act (S. 3454)Final version has passed the House and Senate.  The bill now must be presented to the President for signature, which is expected to happen.
  • Extending Launch Liability Indemnification/INKSNA/Other Matters (H.R. 6586) — House passed its version, dealing only with indemnification, in November.  Senate passed its version in the wee hours this morning, completely replacing the House text.  The Senate version extends indemnification for only one year instead of two as in the House version.  The Senate version also deals with two issues not addressed in the House version:   extending the waiver for NASA from the Iran, North Korea, Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) and a sense of Congress that NASA should not take money from SLS/Orion to pay for commercial crew or vice versa.   The bill now must return to the House for consideration.  
  • Renaming Dryden Flight Research Center after Neil Armstrong (H.R. 6612)Passed House last night; needs to be considered by Senate.
  • Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Hurricane Sandy Relief (H.R. 1) —  Passed Senate December 28, needs to be considered by House.   Includes $15 million for NASA and about $500 millon for NOAA (but not necessarily for NOAA’s satellite programs).

The House is also considering a House Concurrent Resolution condemning North Korea’s missile launch (H. Con. Res. 145).  It was debated by the House yesterday, but the vote was postponed to today.  It would also need to pass the Senate.  Concurrent resolutions are not “legislative” because they do not become laws signed by the President.  Instead, they are expressions of opinion, fact, principle or purpose by the House and Senate.

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