If the “fiscal cliff” fiasco is not sufficient evidence of Congress’s complete dysfunction, consider the following bill that extends the expiring commercial launch indemnification regime by two years. The House of Representatives approved the measure on Nov. 13 and sent it along to the Senate the following day.
112th CONGRESS 2d Session H. R. 6586 AN ACTTo extend the application of certain space launch liability provisions through 2014.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. EXTENSION.
Section 50915(f) of title 51, United States Code, is amended by striking `December 31, 2012′ and inserting `December 31, 2014′.
Passed the House of Representatives November 13, 2012.
The bill changes a single date in the current law and is not controversial. Yet, it has not been acted on yet by the Senate even though the current regime expires at midnight on Monday.
Under the law, commercial launch operators are protected against third-party losses that exceed the amount of insurance coverage they purchase. The federal government picks the costs of any damages above those levels.
If the law is not extended, then the commercial launch industry — which just becoming competitive again in the global market — will face hikes in their insurance rates. At least until the new Congress can consider a new bill next year.