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Bipartisan Cruz-Nelson NASA Reauthorization Bill Unanimously Passed by Senate Commerce Committee

Sen. Cruz: This bill ensures American leadership and stability in future space exploration programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously passed U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bill Nelson’s (D-Fla.) bipartisan National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2016. The legislation, cosponsored by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), provides stability for NASA to sustain and build upon existing national space investments designed to advance space exploration and science with an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017. 

Sen. Cruz’s statement in committee markup can be watched in its entirety here and read below:

“Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for your leadership on this, and I want to thank the members of the committee for taking up this important bill.

“The last NASA reauthorization act to pass Congress was in 2010. And we have seen in the past the importance of stability and predictability in NASA and space exploration – that whenever one has a change in administration, we have seen the chaos that can be caused by the cancellation of major programs. Whether it was the cancellation of the Constellation program, whether it was the cancellation of the space shuttle, the impact in terms of jobs lost, the impact in terms of money wasted has been significant. 

“And I want to commend the members of this committee on both sides of the aisle for coming together in a bipartisan manner to provide clarity and predictability and support for America’s continued leadership in space. 

“My priority in chairing the Science, Space and Competitiveness Subcommittee has been to work cooperatively to ensure that American remains a leader in space exploration in the 21st century, and I believe this bill takes a positive step towards doing so. And it builds upon the bipartisan Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act that we passed earlier this year. 

“NASA is at a crossroads, and this committee is acting, and I hope the full Congress will act, to ensure stability and predictability going forward. 

“I want to in particular thank Ranking Member Nelson, Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Peters, as well as Sens. Rubio, Wicker, Udall, and Cantwell for working cooperatively together. This bill includes amendments from Sens. Blumenthal and Gardner and Nelson and Rubio and Udall. And I thank Sen. Wicker also for his flexibility on Enhanced Use, and we will continue to work to try to get that added once the scoring issue has been resolved. 

“I also want to take a minute to thank the staff who has worked very, very hard on this: Sen. Thune’s staff, Bailey Edwards, Suzanne Gillen, and Jackie Keshian; Sen. Nelson’s staff, Nick Cummings, Alicia Brown, and Denton Gibson who worked very, very close with my team, Sean McLean and Elliott Mulkin, to resolve everything and come to consensus and move this legislation forward.

“It is my hope that Congress will pass this into law and the president will sign it before the end of the year. And if this legislation is enacted it will help ensure that American astronauts are no longer dependent upon Russia to access space and will once again be able to launch from U.S. soil beginning as early as next year.

“It will support the complete utilization of the International Space Station and take the first steps towards extending the life of the Station potentially to 2028. It will also facilitate the commercialization and economic development of low-Earth orbit to harness the power of American innovation and creativity to expand U.S. commerce into space.

“It will honor Scott Kelly’s 340-day mission in space and all of our astronauts who have sacrificed so much for our country by providing NASA with the authority to provide for medical monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment for long-term conditions that are directly associated with human space flight and exposure to high levels of radiation and microgravity that can result in acute and long-term health consequences.

“And it will direct NASA to not only continue the development of the Space Launch System and Orion but also treat human exploration of Mars as a statutory objective, supported by both Congress and the president.

“Right now, there is a young boy or young girl sitting in a classroom in Houston, Texas, and this bill ensures that he or she will have a chance, as will children all across this country, to become the first American to step foot on the surface of Mars. 

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for including this bill in the mark up, and thank you for the cooperation in a bipartisan pattern moving forward on this important matter.”


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