Latest News

House Passes Debt Limit Bill with Rep. Giffords Voting Aye

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Rep. Gabriele Giffords (D-AZ) returned to her job representing her Tucson, AZ district in the House of Representatives today after a seven month absence following an assassination attempt in January. Her vote helped the House pass the debt limit/deficit reduction deal agreed upon by the White House and congressional leaders yesterday.

The House passed the bill 269-161, but the big story was the return of Rep. Giffords.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow.

Ash Carter Nominated to be DepSecDef

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Today, President Obama nominated Ashton B. Carter to be the new Deputy Secretary of Defense.

This is part of the change in command at the top level of the Department of Defense. Bob Gates resigned as Secretary of Defense and was replaced by Leon Panetta last month.

Carter would replace William J. Lynn III in the deputy position. Lynn left the department shortly after Gates. Carter currently is the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD/ATL). The nomination requires Senate confirmation,

White House Fact Sheet on Debt LImit Deal

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

The White House website has a fact sheet outlining the deal that was reached last night on raising the debt limit and reducing the deficit. The House and Senate still must approve it.

Tentative Debt Limit/Deficit Reduction Agreement Reached

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

President Obama told the nation that agreement has been reached on raising the debt limit and reducing the deficit.

He said, however, that the deal still must be approved by Congress. The White House released a fact sheet describing the compromise. House and Senate leaders are expected to discuss it with their caucuses tomorrow.

Commercial Crew Companies Object to NASA Contract Change

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Companies involved in building commercial crew systems with financial support from NASA so far have taken advantage of a type of "other transaction authority" contracting tool called a Space Act Agreement (SAA). Now that the system designs are maturing and NASA needs to levy requirements on what those systems must do, the agency wants to change how they contract with these companies. The companies are not happy about it.

Jeff Foust has an excellent recap of the problems facing NASA and the companies in today's Space Review. The companies essentially worry that being brought under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs) that government agencies like NASA typically use will sharply increase their costs. NASA feels that it is the only way it can ensure that safety requirements, for example, are met.

UPDATE: Events of Interest: Week of July 31-August 7, 2011

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 31-Jul-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: The LightSquared hearing on August 3 has been postponed.

The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, check our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. The House and Senate are both in session this week. Times and dates for congressional activities are subject to change.

During the Week

Just like last week, the debt limit/deficit reduction debate is expected to be the all-consuming topic, at least in the early part of the week. Cautious optimism prevails that some sort of deal will be struck by Tuesday, August 2, when the Obama Administration says that the United States no longer will be able to pay all of its bills.

Meanwhile, the House is expected to continue consideration of the FY2012 Interior-Environment appropriations bill, which includes the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The House Appropriations Committee denied USGS's proposal to take over the Landsat program completely from NASA; it already operates the existing Landsat satellites.

Sunday-Wednesday, July 31-August 3

Monday, August 1

Tuesday, August 2

Tuesday-Wednesday, August 2-3

Wednesday, August 3

Wednesday-Friday, August 3-5

Thursday, August 4

Thursday-Friday, August 4-5

Thursday-Sunday, August 4-7

Senate Defeats Reid Plan, All Eyes on White House Now

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 31-Jul-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The Senate defeated Majority Leader Harry Reid's attempt to bring to the floor his plan to raise the debt limit and reduce the deficit. The vote was 50-49; 60 aye votes were needed to bring the bill to the floor.

All eyes are now on the White House where the President and representatives of both parties reportedly continue to work on a compromise. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier today that a compromise was "very close," but the New York Times quoted Senator Reid after the vote as saying a number of issues remain to be resolved.

Reid Postpones Senate Vote; National Journal Reports Outlines of Compromise

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 31-Jul-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

Washington news sources are reporting as good news a decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to postpone a vote on his version of a debt limit/deficit reduction bill.

The vote had been scheduled for 1:00 am EDT Sunday (minutes from now), but will take place at 1:00 pm instead to give negotiators more time.

National Journal is reporting that a new compromise has been reached, one that President Obama rejected last weekend, but is now back on the table. According to its account (subscription required), it involves a very short-term extension of the debt limit (days, not weeks) to give Congress additional time, and then an extension that would last through 2012. It would still include creation of a special congressional committee to come up with recommendations on how to cut the deficit. That was in both the Boehner and Reid bills and is now being called a "super committee." It would have to report by Thanksgiving on cutting $1.8 trillion over ten years on top of $1 trillion that would be cut by capping discretionary spending. No "new net tax" revenues would be part of the committee's deliberations.

Capping discretionary spending for the next 10 years would be, of course, a serious impediment to NASA, NOAA and DOD space programs, all of which are part of the discretionary budget.

Congress Continues Playing Politics on Debt Limit

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 30-Jul-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

To the extreme dissatisfaction of House Democrats, House Republicans today brought up the text of the bill that Senator Harry Reid introduced in the Senate and defeated it to demonstrate that it does not have sufficient bipartisan support in the House to pass. However, it was brought up under a procedure that requires a two-thirds vote to pass, much more than the majority vote that is needed typically.

House Rules Committee Chairman David Drier (R-CA) said during floor debate this afternoon that House Republicans were doing this to demostrate that the Reid plan would not pass the House despite Senator Reid's assertion that it would. The bill has not passed the Senate yet; a vote is expected in the wee hours overnight. It was introduced as a House bill and quickly moved to the floor.

Democrats pointed out that if the Boehner plan that narrowly passed the House yesterday had been brought up under the same procedure, it would not have passed either.

The upshot is that the two sides do not appear any closer to compromise than yesterday, as August 2 draws ever closer. In fact, the rhetoric seems to be heating up. Senator Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reportedly were going to meet with President Obama this afternoon.

Vote on Revised Boehner Plan Expected Today

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 29-Jul-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

For those of you breathlessly following the political wrangling over the debt limit/deficit reduction debate, the latest news is that Speaker John Boehner has revised his proposal to garner more Republican support and a vote will take place later today.

The Hill newspaper reports that agreement was reached this morning to add a balanced budget amendment to what the Speaker previously proposed. The House already passed the "cut-cap-balance" bill last week that included a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, but the Senate rejected it. Some Senators have indicated that they would support a stand-alone balanced budget amendment, but not one that it tied to raising the debt limit or deficit reduction.

If a balanced budget amendment were to pass the House and Senate and be signed into law, it would have to be ratified by three-quarters of the States before taking effect.

Meanwhile, whatever passes the House needs to pass the Senate and get the President's signature. This morning the President once again spoke to the nation and called on Congress to pass something that he can sign by Tuesday. He said that the House bill does not have the support of a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and whatever passes must be bipartisan. He ended by saying that he is "confident that common sense and cooler heads will prevail."

Events of Interest


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