Senate Commerce Names Subcommittee Chairs: Ted Cruz for NASA, Marco Rubio for NOAA
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today announced who will chair its subcommittees in the 114th Congress. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will chair the subcommittee that oversees NASA, while Marco Rubio (R-FL) will chair the one with jurisdiction over NOAA.
The Senate is now in Republican hands, so all committee and subcommittee chairs are Republican and ranking members are Democrats (though there are two Independents, who usually vote with Democrats, who might also hold committee leadership positions). The full Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is chaired by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who announced the six subcommittee chairs today. The two of most interest to the space policy community are the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, which includes NOAA, and the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, which includes NASA and added "competitiveness" to its title this year.
Cruz was the top Republican on the Science and Space subcommittee last year, so his ascension to chair is not unexpected. He did not play a prominent public role in NASA matters in the last Congress, and is known mostly for his advocacy of reduced government spending overall and opposition to almost anything that the Obama Administration supports. Bill Nelson (D-FL) chaired the subcommittee in the previous Congress, when it was controlled by Democrats, and is an ardent NASA supporter, having flown on the space shuttle in 1986 when he was a Member of the House of Representatives. Nelson is now the top Democrat on the full Senate Commerce Committee.
Like Cruz, Rubio was the top Republican on the Oceans/Atmosphere subcommittee in the last Congress and now becomes chair. All of NOAA's activities are within the jurisdiction of the subcommittee and historically it has focused more on fisheries and coastal issues than on space.
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