Five Members of Congress Set to Introduce Space Leadership Act on Thursday
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and several other House members will hold a press conference on Thursday to announce introduction of a new piece of legislation called the "Space Leadership Act." Wolf chairs the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee that funds NASA.
Wolf will be joined at the press conference by three other House Republicans -- John Culberson (R-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX) and Bill Posey (R-FL) -- who are co-sponsors of the bill. Another co-sponsor, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), will not be present according to the press release from Rep. Wolf's office. The press conference is at 1:30 pm ET in front of the U.S. Capitol.
Wolf and Culberson said in August that they would introduce legislation to make the NASA Administrator a 10-year appointed position and take other steps to make the agency "less political" as reported by the Houston Chronicle at the time. The newspaper also said that Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, promised to hold a hearing on the bill this year.
Mike Coats, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center, was cited by the newspaper as fully endorsing the draft legislation, an unusual step for a NASA center director. NASA is part of the Executive Branch and reports to the President through the NASA Administrator. Center directors, in turn, report to the NASA Administrator. Though the new bill apparently wants to get some of the politics out of NASA, it hasn't happened yet and for a center director to publicly support legislation sponsored entirely by Republicans when a Democrat occupies the Oval Office is somewhat surprising.
The likelihood of the bill passing Congress this year is extremely small. The House is about to adjourn until after the elections and will not return until November 13, leaving little time for passing anything. Even if it did pass the House, the chances that the Senate would take it up in the few remaining weeks of legislative business are remote. Nothing is impossible, however, so in the event that it did pass the House and Senate the question would be whether the President would sign a bill that reduces his or any other President's influence on the future of the nation's space program, which also seems unlikely.
Still, the bill could stimulate discussion of how to help the agency move forward as it tries to meet the demands of Congress and the White House with a budget that is sharply constrained not just today, but for years to come.
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