While HR 3625, a bill that would protect certain NASA programs from unilateral cancellation without the consent of Congress has passed the House Science Committee and is pending a vote on the House floor, arguments over the advisability of the bill continues. Space News recently published an editorial in opposition. James Hillhouse of AmericaSpace has offered a January 26, 2014 post in support of the bill.
The trouble started when the Obama administration abruptly cancelled the Constellation program at the beginning of 2010 without consulting Congress. Congress, understandably, pushed back and mandated that the Orion space craft and the Space Launch System heavy lift launcher be built over the objections of the Obama administration.
Hillhouse points out that NASA has been using bureaucratic machinations to slow walk the two projects ever since, withholding funding under the Anti Deficiency Act with the excuse that the funds would be needed to close out the Orion and the SLS if they were to be cancelled. However Congress does not seem to be disposed to end either project. Any attempt to do so by the executive branch would be met with the full fury of the legislative branch. Orion and SLS are authorized programs that cannot be cancelled by executive branch fiat, in any case.
Thus the bill is designed to reassert Congress’s authority over whether or not certain government programs are allowed to continue. It represents a tug of war between the two branches that go beyond just the merits of the programs being argued about.