Ex-Im Bank Back in Business After Senate Approves Nominees

The U.S. Senate has put the Export-Import Bank back in full operation by confirming the nominations of Spencer Bachus, Judith DelZoppo and Kimberley Reed to fill open positions on the bank’s Board of Directors. Reed will serve as the board’s president.

The bank, which helps U.S. companies finance purchases by foreign buyers, has been limited to approving deals worth $10 million or less over the past several years by a political deadlock over filling seats. Aerospace companies have said they have lost business as a result.

Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Eric Fanning praised today’s confirmations in a statement.

The Bank now has the required number of Directors to approve transactions over $10 million, and immediately can begin work to reduce the backlog of $40 billion in deals that have been awaiting approval. This begins to put American exporters on a level playing field with international competition with active support from their domestic export credit agencies.

The next step to send a clear signal that America is serious about competing in the global marketplace is for Congress to begin work on a long-term authorization for the Bank. The Bank’s current authorization expires at the end of the fiscal year, and American exporters will once again be fighting an uphill battle if Congress fails to pass a reauthorization bill.

The Bank is an important tool for American industry, including aerospace companies of all sizes. We look forward to working with Congress and the administration to ensure the Bank has the support it needs to fulfill its critical mission of supporting American exporters.

Bridenstine: NASA Needs Funding Surge to Land on Moon by 2024

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceNews reports that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine didn’t do much on Wednesday to clear up what the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 is going to cost in testimony before the commerce, justice and science subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Bridenstine declined to offer a dollar figure, saying that the agency submitted a “pretty good” proposal to the Office of Management and Budget, which is performing its own review along with the staff of the National Space Council. The goal, he said, is to “come up with a unified administration position” on how much additional funding NASA will request.
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Cruz Reintroduces Space Frontier Act

Sen. Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ted Cruz PR) — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, along with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) this week introduced the Space Frontier Act. This bipartisan bill would secure funding to continue operations for the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030, eliminate overreaching regulations to support further development of the commercial space sector, and to strengthen America’s leadership in space exploration. Read the full text of the bill here.

“I am proud of this bipartisan legislation as it will help to fortify America’s leadership in the domain of space,” Sen. Cruz said. “The Space Frontier Act moves our nation forward in taking the critical step of continuing the operations and utilization of the International Space Station through 2030, securing the United States’ competitive edged against China in low-Earth orbit, and enacts meaningful reforms to modernize our nation’s launch and re-entry regulations, and streamlines nongovernmental Earth observation regulations.”

“Arizona is home to a thriving aerospace manufacturing community,” said Senator Sinema. “We’re working across the aisle to cut red tape, support our space industry, and ensure that the United States continues to be a leader in the global space community.”

“Fifty years after the United States first put a man on the moon, we are in the midst of a new and exciting space race,” Wicker said. “This challenge requires policy certainty, partnerships with the private sector and our friends across the globe, and America’s continuing competitive edge and innovative thinking. The Space Frontier Act would ensure American leadership in space for years to come.”

“This bill passed the Senate through unanimous consent last year, and I am glad to continue this bipartisan effort to provide certainty and a firmer launchpad for our commercial space industry,” Sen. Markey said. “Our sky should not be a ceiling for innovation and achievement, and the Space Frontier Act will help the American space industry achieve new heights, all while protecting small businesses and the scientific research that benefits all Americans through innovation and discovery.”

Bill Nelson Concedes Senate Race to Rick Scott

Florida Senator Bill Nelson

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has conceded the Senate race to Republican rival Rick Scott after a recount. Scott, who is leaving his job as Florida governor, won by 10,033 votes out of more than 8.1 million cast.

Nelson, who has been a strong supporter of NASA, has held the Senate seat for 18 years. He previously served in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991.

During his time in the House, he flew into space as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1986.

Scott has also been a strong supporter of the space program during his time as governor. Space Florida, which serves as the state’s space agency, has spent millions of dollars on infrastructure improvements and other incentives at Cape Canaveral to lure commercial companies to operate there.

Nelson was one of three prominent space advocates to lose re-election bids. Rep. John Culberson. Republican lost his bid to continue representing Texas’ 7th district. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) will also be departing after 30 years in the House.

Senate Confirms Morhard as NASA Deputy Administrator

The Senate has confirmed James Morhard as NASA deputy administrator on Friday. Morhard had been serving as the Senate deputy sergeant at arms.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued the following statement about the confirmation:

“Congratulations to Jim Morhard! He was confirmed as the 14th Deputy Administrator of NASA on Thursday, Oct. 11.

“He joins our amazing agency at a crucial time in history. NASA is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and I look forward to working with him as we look towards NASA’s next 60 years. His legislative and managerial talents will serve NASA well as we accomplish stunning achievements.” 

FAA Bill Would Boost Commercial Space Spending

The budget of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) would more than triple over the next five years according to a re-authorization bill hammered out by House and Senate negotiators.

FAA AST’s current budget of $22.6 million would increase as follows:

  • FY 2019: $33,038,000
  • FY 2020: $43,500,000
  • FY 2021: $54,970,000
  • FY 2022: $64,449,000
  • FY 2023: $75,938,000.

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Senate Commerce Committee Approve Deputy NASA Administrator, OSTP Director Nominations

The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved the nominations of Jim Morhard to be deputy administrator of NASA and Kelvin Droegemeier to head up the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The voice votes were conducted with no dissents. The nominations now go to the full Senate for a vote.

Morhard, 62, currently serves as the Senate deputy sergeant at arms.

Droegemeier, 60, is a respected meteorologist who is vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma.

Nominations Hearing Set for NASA Deputy Administrator, OSTP Director

Nominations Hearing

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing at 10: 15 a.m. on Thursday, August 23, 2018, to consider three presidential nominees.

Completed nomination questionnaires are available at www.commerce.senate.gov/nominations

Witnesses:

  • Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, of Oklahoma, to be the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy [Questionaire]
  • Mr. James “Jim” Morhard, of Virginia, to be Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [Questionaire]
  • Mr. Joel Szabat, of Maryland, to be Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs at the Department of Transportation [Questionaire]

*Witness list subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Thursday, August 23, 2018
10: 15 a.m.
Full Committee

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Battle Brews Over Filling NASA Deputy Administrator Spot

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Quartz reports there’s a battle brewing over who will be NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s deputy. The position of deputy administrator must be nominated by the president and approved by the Senate.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is a former lawmaker, and he says he wants a former astronaut, Dr. Janet Kavandi, as his deputy. But Donald Trump, who makes the final decision, is leaning toward a man with no experience in space technology.

Five sources with knowledge of the deliberations tell Quartz that the White House is seriously considering James Morhard, a veteran senate aide…

Kavandi, 58, joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1994. She had previously been an engineer at Boeing, and earned a P.h.D in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington in Seattle. She spent 33 days in space as an astronaut on three different space shuttle missions, then became the lead astronaut supervising work on the International Space Station and the deputy head of the astronaut office. In 2016, she became the director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center, which includes a huge vacuum chamber where SpaceX’s crew vehicle, the Dragon space capsule, is currently undergoing tests.

In his current job, Morhard, 61, is responsible for technology and administration in the offices of 100 senators and 88 committees and subcommittees. Starting off as an accountant at the Pentagon, he began his career as a legislative staffer in 1983, earning an MBA and a law degree along the way.

He rose to become the powerful chief of staff of the Appropriations Committee under the late senator Ted Stevens, and forged close ties with Republican senators. Morhard was a passenger, along with former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe, in a 2010 plane crash that killed Stevens and four others.

Bridenstine Squeaks in as NASA Administrator in Party-Line Vote

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

The nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to serve as the next NASA Administrator was narrowly approved by the U.S. Senate on Thursday afternoon.

The part-line vote was 50-49, with all Republicans voting yes and all the Democrats opposed. Sen. John McCain, who is absent undergoing cancer treatments, did not vote.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who had raised concerns about confirming a politician to run an agency with broad bipartisan support, voted to support the nomination.

Democrats opposed the nomination for several reasons, including Bridenstine’s previous claims that global warming is not occurring. He has since modified his views.

Bridenstine Narrowly Survives Vote to Vote on His Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

The Senate has scheduled a vote on the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to become the next NASA Administrator on Thursday at 1:45 p.m. EDT.

Tomorrow’s showdown comes after a procedural vote to end debate on Wednesday that showed how sharply divided the Senate is about Bridenstine’s nomination. The measure passed 50-48, with all Republicans voting in the affirmative and all Democrats voting against it.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) initially voted against the nomination, resulting in a 49-49 tie. However, he later switched his vote to the affirmative. Vice President Mike Pence could have broken the tie, but he was not in the capital on Wednesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) had previously questioned Bridenstine’s nomination. However, he voted to end debate.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) did not vote on Wednesday. McCain is undergoing cancer treatment; Duckworth gave birth to a daughter last week.

Florida Governor to Challenge Bill Nelson for Senate Seat

Florida Senator Bill Nelson

Three-term Florida Sen. Bill Nelson — a major supporter of NASA and the space program — will face a challenge in November from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, The Hill reports.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced on Monday that he’ll challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D), setting up a marquee battle that could help decide which party controls the Senate.

Scott sought to paint himself as an outsider and vowed to “shake up Washington” if elected in November, without naming Nelson during his speech….

Scott’s long-awaited announcement ends months of speculation and sets up what is expected to be the costliest race of the cycle against Nelson, a three-term incumbent.

It will also serve as a test for President Trump given the White House’s efforts to recruit Scott for the race. Trump won Florida in 2016’s presidential contest by a little more than a percentage point.

Scott, who because of term limits cannot run for a third term as governor, is a close ally of Trump. While Trump carried the state, Democrats and even some Republican believe that his closeness to Trump could be a liability if the president’s approval numbers don’t improve.

Senate to Vote on Bridenstine’s Nomination to Lead NASA

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed a motion to bring the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to become the next administrator of NASA to a vote on the Senate floor.

News of the cloture motion was tweeted by Senate Cloakroom (@SenateCloakroom) on Monday. The account is operated by the Senate Republican Cloakroom staff.

Bridenstine was nominated for the position by President Donald Trump in September. The Senate Commerce Committee approved by a narrow party-line vote, with all the Democratic members voting against it.

Democrats have said that Bridenstine lacks the requisite scientific and technical background to lead the nation’s space agency. They have also questioned his past statements that global warming was not occurring. NASA spends $1.9 million on Earth science programs.

The vote on Bridenstine could be very close. It is believed that all 49 Democrats will vote against it. That would leave a narrow margin of 51 Republicans to vote for Bridenstine.

However, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has questioned  the wisdom of appointing a partisan politician to run an agency that has broad bipartisan support.

Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie. However, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been absent from the Senate undergoing cancer treatments.

Senate Approves NASA CFO

Jeffrey DeWit (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

The nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to run NASA might still be in limbo, but the Senate did accomplish something involving the space agency: confirming Jeffrey DeWit to serve as the chief financial officer (CFO).

“It is encouraging to see more members of the agency’s leadership team being named,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a statement. “Jeff’s solid financial background will be a tremendous addition as we continue to advance our nation’s aeronautic and exploration initiatives.”

DeWit formerly serves as state treasurer of Arizona and chairman of the Arizona State Board of Investments. He was elected to a four-year term as state treasurer in 2014, and he said he did not plan to run for reelection this year.

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