Author Topic: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview  (Read 447053 times)

Offline Jeff Bingham

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #200 on: 12/02/2010 07:20 pm »
If you listened carefully, you heard Beth Robinson say that it actually was NOT an impediment to the SLS or MPCV--that the issue there was the uncertainty of just how much the eventual funding levels would be.

I thought I heard that, but thanks for making it clear.

It would be worth reading the transcript. I thought that she meant that the amount of spending was a bigger impediment than the language itself (which would make sense). Although, I imagine that there is ways around the language in the sense that you could argue that the SLS is essentially a modified Ares V. You could also try to argue that NASA is not cancelling Ares I but that it is focusing its energy instead on this modified Ares V. 

Unofficial transcript should be available soon; usually one of the contractors has one done by someone and they get circulated around. The final, formal transcript isn't available until publication of the hearing document, which takes months, but in the interim, a rough should be close enough to double-check this sort of thing. Plus, as I mentioned, questions like this are often followed up on in written questions sent to witnesses after the hearing and eventually also published in the hearing document (but obviously, available to the Committee as soon as they are sent back from the witnesses.)

And yes, those are the kinds of logic/arguments that are being evaluated, as she mentioned, by NASA General Counsel.
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Offline brihath

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #201 on: 12/02/2010 07:28 pm »
I feel pretty good about the hearing; from my perspective, it accomplished its primary objectives, which were to

a) demonstrate that the Committee is VERY serious about using its oversight authority to closely monitor--and thus be in a position to enforce--compliance with both the language and intent of the law,

b) to express concerns about indications the Committee has received from a variety of sources about less-than-adequate enthusiasm for full and complete implementation of the law or inaccurate "interpretations" of the law,

c) establish a dialogue about what real or imagined impediments exists (i.e., appropriations language and FY 2011 potential funding level scenarios) and potential solutions thereto, and

d) get affirmative statements on the record from senior officials regarding the "adoption" of the law as a matter of Administration policy and commitments to its successful implementation. (The focus was on the NASA CFO for this hearing simply because the current situation of working through the tangled web of CR appropriations--and that official's role in working through that and developing allocations among programs and providing longer-term budget planning guidance--is especially critical right now during the "transition.")

It was also made clear, though maybe not as noticeable to observers as some of the above, that this was the "opening salvo", if you will, of what will be an ongoing process of careful oversight and follow-up; that the enactment of the law represented just the "first step" in ensuring the new "re-direction" established by the law, especially in the realm of human spaceflight; and to reflect that that oversight includes being able to fine-tune the language and policy, where needed, to ensure an "executable" program (including changes to out-year funding, etc., depending on what becomes clear and more certain on exactly what vehicle designs and mission definitions are developed, as required by the law.)

So...a good beginning, in my view, skeptics and critics of the law and the process on this site and elsewhere notwithstanding, hehe.

51D-  Thanks for the summary.  Just curious, what steps would the committee be empowered to take should implementation of the law deviate from the intended path?

The Committee can develop new legislative language to amend the law to both clarify intent, and remove "wiggle room" if needed. It has the authority to enact "if-then" kinds of provisions, prohibit other actions if desired actions aren't taken, etc.  In the broader sense, it has the power to subpoena documents; require specific information that enables it to monitor progress and compliance, use the "bully pulpit" of additional hearings, press conferences, speeches, etc., to publicly highlight issues or concerns and bring attention to them, etc., etc. One thing not seen in yesterday's hearing is the fact that very specific and detailed questions will be sent to the witnesses, which will focus on concerns and issues that were referred to in more general terms during the hearing. The importance of getting the assurances of compliance publicly stated on the record yesterday is that it opens the door for that whole range of "tools" to be able to ensure accountability for the subsequent actions--or lack thereof--taken in fulfilling the obligations committed to. When these kinds of things are done on a bipartisan basis, they can be very powerful elements of the "policy process."

51D-  Outstanding.  Thanks for the info again. 

In determining the level of detail in the questions, do you anticipate that the effort will be bipartisan, for example by both the Committee Chair and the ranking minority member?  With particular regard to the nitty-gritty details, is that level of granularity exhibited by both parties?

Offline Namechange User

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #202 on: 12/02/2010 07:32 pm »
And yes, those are the kinds of logic/arguments that are being evaluated, as she mentioned, by NASA General Counsel.

But only after addressing the nebulous and dire situation involving the grad students, lol. 
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Offline Pheogh

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #203 on: 12/02/2010 07:35 pm »
If you listened carefully, you heard Beth Robinson say that it actually was NOT an impediment to the SLS or MPCV--that the issue there was the uncertainty of just how much the eventual funding levels would be.

I thought I heard that, but thanks for making it clear.

It would be worth reading the transcript. I thought that she meant that the amount of spending was a bigger impediment than the language itself (which would make sense). Although, I imagine that there is ways around the language in the sense that you could argue that the SLS is essentially a modified Ares V. You could also try to argue that NASA is not canceling Ares I but that it is focusing its energy instead on this modified Ares V. 

Furthermore that this approach, specifically putting off the riskier development tasks (upper stage!!!) to later cycles when funds and will hopefully are more shored up. That was Ms. Chaplain btw channeling DIRECT or was it the other way around :P

Either way it's a welcome observation that this is in fact from a budgetary standpoint encouraging.
« Last Edit: 12/02/2010 07:36 pm by Pheogh »

Offline sdsds

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #204 on: 12/02/2010 08:16 pm »
It would be interesting to know if NASA understands the wording in the Authorization Act to mean, "Design an efficient two stage rocket that can also deliver a 70 t payload to orbit without its upper stage."  This is the essence of the DIRECT proposal:  i.e. design J-24x and then use pieces of that vehicle for J-130.

For that to work well, the DIRECT approach requires the "dual-use boat tail" on the core that can be flown with either three or four SSMEs, depending on whether or not the vehicle is carrying an upper stage.  It seems (to me) that Congress intentionally left NASA with a tiny but of wiggle room on this point, but only so much as to say, "Either propose the DIRECT dual-use boat tail, or show us another approach that's just as good."

My concern is that NASA isn't even close to being able to say, "Here's a design we think is just as good as a dual-use boat tail design."  They can't say that because, apparently, they have not yet acknowledged that a dual-use boat tail design exists, much less begun even a preliminary analysis of it.  So how can they say, "Here's a design just as good" when they haven't even acknowledged the existence of what their design would be measured against?

Are the committee members (or anyone else affiliated with Congress) explicitly telling NASA that is their challenge?  Or is the administration being expected to read it between the lines?
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Offline Jeff Bingham

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #205 on: 12/02/2010 08:51 pm »
If you listened carefully, you heard Beth Robinson say that it actually was NOT an impediment to the SLS or MPCV--that the issue there was the uncertainty of just how much the eventual funding levels would be.

I thought I heard that, but thanks for making it clear.

It would be worth reading the transcript. I thought that she meant that the amount of spending was a bigger impediment than the language itself (which would make sense). Although, I imagine that there is ways around the language in the sense that you could argue that the SLS is essentially a modified Ares V. You could also try to argue that NASA is not cancelling Ares I but that it is focusing its energy instead on this modified Ares V. 

As predicted, a contractor-provided transcript was sent around. It has a copyright notice on it from Congressional Quarterly, who I assume the contractor paid to produce the transcript, which they then gave a broad circulation to, embedded in an email, which their contract presumably allows. Perhaps under the "fair use" doctrine of copyright law I can provide, in turn, a small excerpt from the email that was widely distributed. (MODERATOR, take note, and delete if necessary). But I believe this is the relevant portion that I heard, in response to questioning by Senator Lemieux:

"ROBINSON:

Well, we -- we have moved forward in -- in select areas. The -- the real issue is -- is not the -- whether or not a specific activity we can pursue. It's how much we can pursue it.
For example, will we get funding at a specific level for heavy lift? What will that funding level be? You'll have a different program if you start out at a different funding level in the first year and -- and thereabouts.
And so it's not a specific activity; it's more you just can't finalize your plans until you have the overall funding and -- and other terms and conditions set so that you can move forward."
 (Excerpt from CQ Transcripts)
Offering only my own views and experience as a long-time "Space Cadet."

Offline Jeff Bingham

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #206 on: 12/02/2010 08:56 pm »
I feel pretty good about the hearing; from my perspective, it accomplished its primary objectives, which were to

a) demonstrate that the Committee is VERY serious about using its oversight authority to closely monitor--and thus be in a position to enforce--compliance with both the language and intent of the law,

b) to express concerns about indications the Committee has received from a variety of sources about less-than-adequate enthusiasm for full and complete implementation of the law or inaccurate "interpretations" of the law,

c) establish a dialogue about what real or imagined impediments exists (i.e., appropriations language and FY 2011 potential funding level scenarios) and potential solutions thereto, and

d) get affirmative statements on the record from senior officials regarding the "adoption" of the law as a matter of Administration policy and commitments to its successful implementation. (The focus was on the NASA CFO for this hearing simply because the current situation of working through the tangled web of CR appropriations--and that official's role in working through that and developing allocations among programs and providing longer-term budget planning guidance--is especially critical right now during the "transition.")

It was also made clear, though maybe not as noticeable to observers as some of the above, that this was the "opening salvo", if you will, of what will be an ongoing process of careful oversight and follow-up; that the enactment of the law represented just the "first step" in ensuring the new "re-direction" established by the law, especially in the realm of human spaceflight; and to reflect that that oversight includes being able to fine-tune the language and policy, where needed, to ensure an "executable" program (including changes to out-year funding, etc., depending on what becomes clear and more certain on exactly what vehicle designs and mission definitions are developed, as required by the law.)

So...a good beginning, in my view, skeptics and critics of the law and the process on this site and elsewhere notwithstanding, hehe.

51D-  Thanks for the summary.  Just curious, what steps would the committee be empowered to take should implementation of the law deviate from the intended path?

The Committee can develop new legislative language to amend the law to both clarify intent, and remove "wiggle room" if needed. It has the authority to enact "if-then" kinds of provisions, prohibit other actions if desired actions aren't taken, etc.  In the broader sense, it has the power to subpoena documents; require specific information that enables it to monitor progress and compliance, use the "bully pulpit" of additional hearings, press conferences, speeches, etc., to publicly highlight issues or concerns and bring attention to them, etc., etc. One thing not seen in yesterday's hearing is the fact that very specific and detailed questions will be sent to the witnesses, which will focus on concerns and issues that were referred to in more general terms during the hearing. The importance of getting the assurances of compliance publicly stated on the record yesterday is that it opens the door for that whole range of "tools" to be able to ensure accountability for the subsequent actions--or lack thereof--taken in fulfilling the obligations committed to. When these kinds of things are done on a bipartisan basis, they can be very powerful elements of the "policy process."

51D-  Outstanding.  Thanks for the info again. 

In determining the level of detail in the questions, do you anticipate that the effort will be bipartisan, for example by both the Committee Chair and the ranking minority member?  With particular regard to the nitty-gritty details, is that level of granularity exhibited by both parties?

I can assure you in this case it is definitely bi-partisan. In fact, there was a degree of collaboration among bipartisan staff before and during the hearing on some of the questions that were actually asked during the hearing.  With regard to QFRs (Questions for the Record), mechanically the way it works is any Member with questions submits them to their respective Committee staff by a certain date and they are all then collected and collated by the Majority staff and forwarded to the respective witnesses to whom they are addressed for a response within a specified time period.
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Offline yg1968

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #207 on: 12/02/2010 09:16 pm »
If you listened carefully, you heard Beth Robinson say that it actually was NOT an impediment to the SLS or MPCV--that the issue there was the uncertainty of just how much the eventual funding levels would be.

I thought I heard that, but thanks for making it clear.

It would be worth reading the transcript. I thought that she meant that the amount of spending was a bigger impediment than the language itself (which would make sense). Although, I imagine that there is ways around the language in the sense that you could argue that the SLS is essentially a modified Ares V. You could also try to argue that NASA is not cancelling Ares I but that it is focusing its energy instead on this modified Ares V. 

As predicted, a contractor-provided transcript was sent around. It has a copyright notice on it from Congressional Quarterly, who I assume the contractor paid to produce the transcript, which they then gave a broad circulation to, embedded in an email, which their contract presumably allows. Perhaps under the "fair use" doctrine of copyright law I can provide, in turn, a small excerpt from the email that was widely distributed. (MODERATOR, take note, and delete if necessary). But I believe this is the relevant portion that I heard, in response to questioning by Senator Lemieux:

"ROBINSON:

Well, we -- we have moved forward in -- in select areas. The -- the real issue is -- is not the -- whether or not a specific activity we can pursue. It's how much we can pursue it.
For example, will we get funding at a specific level for heavy lift? What will that funding level be? You'll have a different program if you start out at a different funding level in the first year and -- and thereabouts.
And so it's not a specific activity; it's more you just can't finalize your plans until you have the overall funding and -- and other terms and conditions set so that you can move forward."
 (Excerpt from CQ Transcripts)


Thanks for that. That was a key question.
« Last Edit: 12/02/2010 09:17 pm by yg1968 »

Offline TimL

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #208 on: 12/02/2010 09:56 pm »

The Committee can develop new legislative language to amend the law to both clarify intent, and remove "wiggle room" if needed. It has the authority to enact "if-then" kinds of provisions, prohibit other actions if desired actions aren't taken, etc.  In the broader sense, it has the power to subpoena documents; require specific information that enables it to monitor progress and compliance, use the "bully pulpit" of additional hearings, press conferences, speeches, etc., to publicly highlight issues or concerns and bring attention to them, etc., etc. One thing not seen in yesterday's hearing is the fact that very specific and detailed questions will be sent to the witnesses, which will focus on concerns and issues that were referred to in more general terms during the hearing. The importance of getting the assurances of compliance publicly stated on the record yesterday is that it opens the door for that whole range of "tools" to be able to ensure accountability for the subsequent actions--or lack thereof--taken in fulfilling the obligations committed to. When these kinds of things are done on a bipartisan basis, they can be very powerful elements of the "policy process."



Question. if congress amends any of the language, doesn't the president have to sign off on it?

It would seem to run counter to presidential approval of a bill that the president had signed into law if after the fact, congress can go in and make changes that might change the context too far...
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Offline Jeff Bingham

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #209 on: 12/02/2010 11:32 pm »

The Committee can develop new legislative language to amend the law to both clarify intent, and remove "wiggle room" if needed. It has the authority to enact "if-then" kinds of provisions, prohibit other actions if desired actions aren't taken, etc.  In the broader sense, it has the power to subpoena documents; require specific information that enables it to monitor progress and compliance, use the "bully pulpit" of additional hearings, press conferences, speeches, etc., to publicly highlight issues or concerns and bring attention to them, etc., etc. One thing not seen in yesterday's hearing is the fact that very specific and detailed questions will be sent to the witnesses, which will focus on concerns and issues that were referred to in more general terms during the hearing. The importance of getting the assurances of compliance publicly stated on the record yesterday is that it opens the door for that whole range of "tools" to be able to ensure accountability for the subsequent actions--or lack thereof--taken in fulfilling the obligations committed to. When these kinds of things are done on a bipartisan basis, they can be very powerful elements of the "policy process."



Question. if congress amends any of the language, doesn't the president have to sign off on it?

It would seem to run counter to presidential approval of a bill that the president had signed into law if after the fact, congress can go in and make changes that might change the context too far...

Well, of course any amendment to existing law has to be passed by the Congress and either approved by the President or enacted over his veto. That happens just about every day in one form or another in the Congress. And if the "content" of the existing law would be changed by such an action to make it too far from what the President wanted, he could veto it and force a vote on a veto over-ride. But first, those aren't the level of changes I was referring to and Second, I was only giving a hypothetical example of what "could" be done; not what might or ought to be done. At this point, no one (at least not me or anyone I'm aware of) is talking about making any significant changes to the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-267). That law was passed overwhelmingly by the Congress, so I'm not aware of anyone in a hurry to change it. T

he question I was responding to was what might be some of the  "tools" available to ensure the law was actually being followed. And was suggesting that sometimes, a change might be useful in specific wording in order so clarify the spirit or INTENT of that law if, for whatever reason, that might be confused or become the subject misinterpretation.  Not the sort of change that would raise the kind of question you are raising.
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Offline TimL

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #210 on: 12/02/2010 11:52 pm »
Ok, so hypothetically, the folks from Utah jump up and down screaming "the SLS has to use solid rockets" and that's what we voted for. They push for amendments to the Authorization Act that require SLS use solids. Now, NASA comes along and its  advisers tell the president that "we don't want solids" and the Act doesn't require us to use solid. If the Utah delegation gets enough support to push the amendment into the act that that would or wouldn't require congress or the president's approval before becoming a change to the Act?

BTW, I'm not a lover or hater of any one system proposed to date. I would just be happy if we could just get along, stop the political manipulations and get over the "my design is better than yours" nonsense. We need a dependable, lower cost transportation system into LEO. After we get there, then we can start focusing on BLEO. I think termination of STS is premature to say the least.
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Offline Halidon

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #211 on: 12/03/2010 03:31 am »
Ok, so hypothetically, the folks from Utah jump up and down screaming "the SLS has to use solid rockets" and that's what we voted for. They push for amendments to the Authorization Act that require SLS use solids. Now, NASA comes along and its  advisers tell the president that "we don't want solids" and the Act doesn't require us to use solid. If the Utah delegation gets enough support to push the amendment into the act that that would or wouldn't require congress or the president's approval before becoming a change to the Act?
Congress can't amend legislation that's already been signed into law without doing the whole process, including votes in both houses and the President's signature.

Offline FinalFrontier

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #212 on: 12/03/2010 03:52 am »
I think we shouldn't miss something critical here. It seems to me that the thing to take away from this is may not be "oh now there going to mandate solids" or "this is wrong because I don't like SLS commercial is better ect.". I think what we should take away is that NASA admin and deputy admin appear to have, at least at one point, actively resisted what the law of the land told them to do. Now I know its all very vague since the appropriation hasn't happened yet, and I also know that the law was a bill until very recently, but the fact that ANY kind of resistance happened like this is disturbing. As someone in the hearing said, "it seems like your trying to follow the 2011 budget request rather than what has been mandated" I am looking beyond the "commercial vs SLS" argument here to something far more critical, the fact that a part of this Administration, namely the two appointees for the leadership of NASA, ignored congressional mandates. Doesn't this strike you as shocking? Thats almost exactly what Griffin was doing, although he was able to basically have an open season because the law was on his side, that didn't make it any better. The fact that they would even CONSIDER violating an act of congress in favor of the potus is really disturbing. How many more cases of this are there under this wh? Wouldn't they have done the same thing, if it was a commercial plan that somehow went against what fy 2011 wanted? What does this mean going forward if this leadership is not replaced?

I think the main point I am trying to make here is, if they are resisting this, who's to say they (garver, bolden, holdren) would not also have resisted a commercial plan that went in any way against the wishes of POTUS in fy 2011 (for example if one existed that got us back to the moon quickly)?? I find the entire thing bizarre and disturbing and I think that perhaps a leadership change may be in order down the road. Its not about which plan is better, its about the fact the law has been enacted and they did not follow it, they followed the WISHES of someone else.
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Offline TimL

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #213 on: 12/03/2010 04:12 am »
I didn't perceive it quite that way. There were two senior administrators that serve the president, not congress. Personally, I think they're stuck between a rock and a hard place.

My boss's, boss's, boss's, boss serves at the pleasure of the president as well. Congress is great at throwing more duties on our already full plate and then failing to fund everything they want done. We wind up getting our work list dictated by the president's priorities, not congress. Been that way for a couple hundred years, I've been through half a dozen presidents and more turns over the both houses, I don't see it changing any time soon.
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Offline MP99

Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #214 on: 12/03/2010 07:47 am »
I think what we should take away is that NASA admin and deputy admin appear to have, at least at one point, actively resisted what the law of the land told them to do.

I'd guess NASA would say they were "following the letter of the law, although perhaps not what Congress intended when they worded their legislation".

51D's comments (for which I'll add my great thanks) suggest clarifying the legislation so that it unambiguously requires what Congress intended.

cheers, Martin

Offline MP99

Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #215 on: 12/03/2010 07:51 am »

Congress can't amend legislation that's already been signed into law without doing the whole process, including votes in both houses and the President's signature.

If Congress is in session, I think it's more correct to say "the President not vetoing".

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pocket_veto.

cheers, Martin

Edit: or maybe I've misunderstood:-
Well, of course any amendment to existing law has to be passed by the Congress and either approved by the President or enacted over his veto.
« Last Edit: 12/03/2010 07:54 am by MP99 »

Offline Cog_in_the_machine

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #216 on: 12/03/2010 08:27 am »
FinalFrontier, I really don't understand this obsession you have with wanting Bolden/Garver/who ever fired. You ask "what if they resisted a commercial plan to get us back to the Moon", but such a plan is not part of the National Space Policy as far as I'm aware. How can they resist something that isn't even in NASA's policy to begin with? With respect to commercial, both FY2011 and the Senate Bill didn't have "a commercial plan for getting back to the Moon".
Broadly speaking, FY2011 had commercial LEO activity, government technology demonstrators and a 5 year maximum period for HLV design selection. With respect to destinations the targets were NEO, Mars.
The Senate Bill does mention the Moon in addition to all that and retaining capability to return there, but I can't recall exactly what the language was. That said though, it calls for using a shuttle derived HLV and delaying commercial (walk before you run as Nelson says), so right there "a commercial plan for getting back to the Moon" is incompatible with this document also.
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Offline yg1968

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #217 on: 12/03/2010 02:12 pm »

Congress can't amend legislation that's already been signed into law without doing the whole process, including votes in both houses and the President's signature.

If Congress is in session, I think it's more correct to say "the President not vetoing".

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pocket_veto.

cheers, Martin

Edit: or maybe I've misunderstood:-
Well, of course any amendment to existing law has to be passed by the Congress and either approved by the President or enacted over his veto.

You are right. But if the President doesn't veto or pocket veto the bill, it means that he approves it.  So what 51D Mascot said is also correct.
« Last Edit: 12/03/2010 02:13 pm by yg1968 »

Offline marsavian

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #218 on: 12/03/2010 03:56 pm »
http://www.spacenews.com/policy/101201-senators-vow-enforce-nasa-authorization-act.html

“I want to make sure that those elements in the administration who were trying to have their way, instead of the way that is the law, that they’re not going to undermine this law,” Nelson said  ...

“I’m not saying that language is irrelevant, but I really think it’s largely an excuse,” Vitter said. “The irony is pretty clear. Before this new authorization bill the administration was doing absolutely everything it could administratively to shut down Constellation programs. Now after the new authorization bill has passed, the administration is pointing to that language saying we can’t possibly end Constellation and stop those programs.”

Offline pathfinder_01

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Re: NASA FY 2011 Appropriations - preview
« Reply #219 on: 12/03/2010 05:03 pm »

Congress can't amend legislation that's already been signed into law without doing the whole process, including votes in both houses and the President's signature.

If Congress is in session, I think it's more correct to say "the President not vetoing".

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pocket_veto.

cheers, Martin

Edit: or maybe I've misunderstood:-
Well, of course any amendment to existing law has to be passed by the Congress and either approved by the President or enacted over his veto.

Getting a law out of congress is not an easy thing and the President can pull favors to either prevent a law he dislikes from getting out or just threaten a veto.  In addition a bill can be stop via filabuster in the Senate.  In addition the president does have the power of veto and the Republicans lack the votes to over turn his veto.

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