Congress: December 2009 Archives

Cornyn's fight to cut debt carries political price, Houston Chronicle

"When Texas Sen. John Cornyn recently voted against legislation funding NASA, with its thousands of jobs at Houston's Johnson's Space Center, it caused a bit of a stir back home. After all, the Republican senator always prided himself on being a champion of home-state interests. Even Cornyn readily admits that his vote is an about-face. But there's a clear explanation for the change: Cornyn says he's trying to strike a balance between his dual roles as a senator seeking federal spending in Texas and as an emerging GOP congressional leader fighting to cut government expenditures."

Parker Griffith Jumps Ship

House Democrat announces switch to GOP, MSNBC

"Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, who hails from a heavily conservative congressional district, announced Tuesday that he will join the GOP."

Solid future seen at NASA, Huntsville Times

"The future of America's space program is solid and safe, even as the White House ponders missions and rocket programs that could be led by Marshall Space Flight Center, U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, said here Friday."

Conflict of interest? Congresswoman staunchly backs Constellation -- and is wed to astronaut , Orlando Sentinel

"We know it's personal to her," said Dean Acosta, a spokesman for the Boeing Co. and for the Coalition for Space Exploration, which represents all the big Constellation contractors. "She knows the importance of [Constellation] because of conversations with her husband. She has been one of the key drivers and one of the key voices ... [and] one of the biggest vocal supporters of Constellation and Ares." ...

"If she were out there asking tough questions about Constellation at the same time she was out there roasting alternatives, people would have a lot less problems with her," said one senior White House official not authorized to speak for the administration. But it was her treatment of Augustine, a highly respected aerospace leader, that most angered White House officials, and even upset the former Lockheed Martin CEO himself."

Rep. Parker Griffith to speak with Marshall Space Flight Center employees Friday, Huntsville Times

"Rep. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, is slated to discuss NASA's future Friday in an "all-hands" meeting to be held at Marshall Space Flight Center's auditorium in the headquarters building 4200."

Shelby Goes It Alone

Shelby throws a sharp elbow in NASA fight, Orlando Sentinel

"If the debate over NASA's future was a mob war, then U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby took the fight to the mattresses on Monday when the Alabama Republican called for an investigation into how federal lobbyists influenced a presidential space panel. In a letter dated Monday, Shelby contends that federal lobbyists "tainted" the findings of a presidential space panel that suggested scrapping NASA's Constellation moon rocket program in favor of approach that favored commercial rockets and stronger international partnerships."

Sen. Richard Shelby announces increased NASA money in government spending bill, Huntsville Times

"Shelby managed to restore over $600 million to the program that was cut in the House-passed FY 2010 CJS Appropriations bill, his office said in a prepared statement. Shelby included language that limits NASA's ability to terminate or alter the current Constellation program. This will require the Obama aministration to work with Congress and wait for approval prior to changing any current human exploration plans, Shelby said."

Spending bill causes Senate split, Huntsville

"A $1.1 trillion federal spending bill put Alabama's Republican senators at odds this week, with U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby voting for the act in defense of NASA funding and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions casting a nay vote because of bloated spending."

Keith's note: Since Sen. Shelby is suddenly interested in finances, lobbyists, and the sliming the Augustine Commission, I thought that a closer look at who Sen. Shelby's money people are is in order. With some help from NASA Watch readers in Alabama, it looks like lots of folks in Huntsville wrote big checks to Sen. Shelby's campaign - all on exactly the same day - 11 March 2009. Many of these folks wrote more than one check, according to Opensecrets.org. This listing is a subset of all of the contributions registered on this date. Seems like everyone who gave money on this date is either a lobbyist or a NASA MSFC contractor, married to one, or related to one:

Desperate in Alabama

Sen. Shelby Asks NASA Inspector General To Investigate Augustine Commission Staff and Members

"I am writing with serious concerns regarding the Augustine Commission staff, their vocation, and their conduct while serving as Commission staff. It has come to my attention that several members are, in fact, federally registered lobbyists and that some of these individuals have taken direct advantage of their temporary roles on the Commission to further their personal business. Further, there are lobbyists that worked as Commission staff that are not even acknowledged in the report. This is both disturbing and unconscionable."

Keith's note: How curious. Between the sneaky tricks that Shelby's staff are playing behind the scenes with regard to companies and NASA field centers seens as threats to MSFC/Alabama/Ares to the non-stop outstretched hand of Shelby's contribution gravy train.

Have a look at this list of companies, PACs, etc. who have donated to Shelby's campaigns. See any familiar names? A potential for bias? Influence by lobbyists? Nah. Perish the thought. Sen. Shelby's campaign certainly does not have a problem taking financial contributions from companies - large and small - many of whom have a direct, substantial financial stake in the Ares 1 program and other programs that Shelby exerts influence over.

According to "Top 20 Contributors Senator Richard C Shelby 2005 - 2010" at Opensecrets.org, 5 out of the top 20 of Sen. Shelby's top contributors are Huntsville contractors. Radiance technologies is particuarly dependent on Shelby for handouts and responded with $45,750 in contributions. Dynetics is only #19 with just $19,900 in donations.

As for the other local pols, according to "Top 20 Contributors Congressman Robert B Aderholt 2009 - 2010", Dynetics is his #1 contributor having written checks for $10,600 (where Dave King, Steve Cook etc. and other former senior MSFC management now work). And in the 5th Congressional District, incumbent Parker Griffith's (D) 2008 challenger Wayne Parker (R) got $22,300 from Dynetics making them his #1 contributor as well.

Huntsville's Revolving Door Spins Up (Dynaetics), earlier post

NASA Awards Alabama Information Technology Services Contract

"The total value of the contract, if all options are exercised, is approximately $335 million."

U.S. Richard Shelby calls for NASA investigation of the Augustine review panel, Huntsville Times

"To NASA critic Keith Cowing the move is duplicitous. "Does Sen. Shelby shun lobbyists?" asked Cowing, who runs the Web site NASAwatch.com. "This is like the pot calling the kettle black. If he has a problem with lobbyists then he should renounce them, give their money back and run on his own merits."

Congress, Obama face off on NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"That language, inserted by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., should pass this month as part of a nearly $450 billion omnibus appropriations bill. It would require NASA to spend nearly $4 billion on the program this fiscal year, effectively tying Obama's hands as he attempts to forge a new NASA policy that is likely to cancel Constellation's Ares I rocket. According to industry sources, U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., also signed off on the language, at the urging of U.S. Reps. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., and Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Mollohan heads the appropriations subcommittee that handles NASA, while Gordon and Giffords have oversight responsibility for the agency. "They are at an impasse," said space historian Roger Launius of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. "And unless the White House levels enough pressure, Congress could prevail." A checkmate is exactly what Shelby wants, as the veteran lawmaker has been a ceaseless protector of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and its thousands of Constellation-related jobs."

Bringing Home The Bacon

Shelby and Aderholt secure money for Redstone Arsenal projects, Huntsville Times

"A key spending bill that goes before the full Congress this week includes almost $90 million directly for Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center projects - including work on lunar landers and FBI explosive disposal research."

House votes to protect Ares, Huntsville Times

"After months of fighting for the North Alabama space community, it is a tremendous victory to see critical funding restored to Marshall Space Flight Center, Ares, and Constellation," Griffith said. "This bill not only saves but guarantees the survival of the safest, most advanced and most efficient vehicle we have at NASA."

Lawmakers try to prevent Obama from cutting NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"Congress and the White House have signaled that they envision sharply different futures for NASA and its manned space mission. At an aerospace luncheon, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said President Barack Obama wants the agency to embrace "more international cooperation" after the space-shuttle era ends in 2010 and hinted that its Constellation moon-rocket program could see major changes. "We are going to be fighting and fussing over the coming year," Bolden told an audience of aerospace executives and lobbyists Wednesday. "Some of you are not going to like me, because we are not going to do the same kind of things we've always done." But hours earlier, congressional appropriators reached a different conclusion, approving legislative language declaring that any change to Constellation, which aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 but is running well behind schedule, must first get the approval of Congress."

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden cancelled a speech that he was supposed to deliver in San Diego today at the last minuute to stay in Washington. All NASA field center directors meet early next week with Bolden. Something is up.

According to a Twitter post by Erika Wagner who attended an appearance by Norm Augustine at MIT last night "Augustine: "I'm told that some of the decision documents are on [Obama's] desk right now"

Prepared Statements

Gabrielle Giffords
Bretton Alexander
Joseph Fragola
Jeff Hanley
John Marshall
Bryan O'Connor
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Thomas Stafford

House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Hearing Ensuring the Safety of Human Space Flight

Keith's note: The hearing was held today, 2 December 2009 from 10:00a.m. -12:00p.m. EST. NASA TV will rebroadcast the House Science & Technology hearing on spaceflight safety at 2 p.m.and 7 p.m. EST at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

Astronaut-safety hearing becomes pro-Constellation rally, Orlando Sentinel

"A congressional hearing on astronaut safety turned into a pep rally for NASA's troubled Constellation moon-rocket program, with lawmakers and witnesses endorsing it as the best replacement for the space shuttle even as critics complained the hearing was one-sided. ... The one-sided panel of witnesses didn't escape the notice of U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. "I think that we did need a little more diversity on the panel," he said. "When people like myself are probing ... we [need] to have someone there who would keep everybody honest."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Congress category from December 2009.

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