This was a vote on a motion to suspend the rules and pass of legislation authorizing $59 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) over three years. The bill also authorized NASA to carry out another Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station during that time period. Motions to suspend the rules limit time allowed for debate, and prohibit members from offering amendments. A two-thirds vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority.
Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) argued that while the Senate-passed bill was imperfect, it was the only chance to enact NASA-related legislation before the midterm elections in November, 2010: “For the sake of providing a degree of certainty, stability, and clarity to the NASA workforce and the larger space community, I felt it was better to consider a flawed bill than no bill at all…Thus, despite its flaws, I will vote to suspend the rules and pass the Senate bill.”
Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) urged support for the bill: “While the bill before us today is far from perfect, it offers clear direction to an agency that is floundering and sets us on the path toward maintaining America's leadership in space.”
A slight majority of progressives opposed the bill, and argued it did not do enough to prevent NASA employees from layoffs. (NASA had recently cut its workforce as a result of reductions in funding for research and development. This bill blocked such layoffs for one year. Progressives supported a longer moratorium on such layoffs.) Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) argued: “I believe that provisions in this bill under consideration today leave NASA employees vulnerable in the long-term and could force the agency to continue down the unsustainable path it currently finds itself on.”
The House agreed to the motion to suspend the rules and pass the NASA bill by a vote of 304-118. 185 Democrats and 119 Republicans voted “yea.” 64 Democrats – including a slight majorityof progressives – and 54 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation authorizing $59 billion for NASA over three years. The Senate had already passed this bill. Thus, House passage cleared the measure for President Obama’s signature.