A recent law that was supposed to make it easier for NASA to raise money by leasing underused facilities has gone in the most unexpected direction: expanding voting rights.
NASA’s property law has been turned into “Freedom to Vote: The John R. Lewis Act” under the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives, seeking to undermine Republican opposition to franchise expansion.
The law includes provisions such as turning election day into a federal holiday, allowing on-day voter registration, extending early and postal voting, and allowing multiple types of non-photographic voting cards, Business Insider reported.
The House passed the law Thursday (January 13th) by 220 to 203 votes, with each MP voting along party lines, according to SpaceNews.
But in the meantime, NASA still does not have the ability to subscribe to certain types of leases to generate revenue. NASA’s authority to do so expired on December 31, meaning the agency cannot enter into new contracts with companies, government agencies or educational institutions to lease unused space.
MP Frank Lucas (R-OK), a leading member of the House’s Science, Space and Technology Committee overseeing NASA’s activities, said he was not happy with moving the law from its original focus to allow the agency to enter into improved use agreements.
“Good politics does not require secrecy and schemes. This is not a way of governing,” Lucas said in an e-mail statement to voters, claiming the House had only 12 hours to vote on the issue after 735 pages were pinned to the bill.
“What’s more,” he said, “by repealing this NASA law and replacing it with an attempt to impose federal election control, they killed our only vehicle to extend NASA’s power to lease underutilized assets and save taxpayers’ money.”
A Democrat spokesman who originally unveiled NASA’s lease law in October, however, praised the move as a way to offer expanded access to voting.
In a statement issued before the bill was passed, MP Don Beyer (D-VA) said the law would be interpreted as “attacks on the ability of Americans to exercise their right to vote.”
“While I didn’t expect this outcome when I first introduced NASA’s Leasing Extension Act for improved use,” he added, “if my legislation will help overcome filibusters, the Senate may finally have a long overdue debate on the voting rights this country deserves. I would be honored to make this unexpected contribution to the goal of protecting our democracy. “
The bill, also known as HR 5746, has come a long way to the bill. Following its presentation in October, the House of Representatives voted on December 8 to allow NASA to re-sign the lease for the next 10 years, allowing the bill to be sent to the Senate.
The Senate amended the law to allow only a three-month extension to NASA, instead of 10 years, but unanimously passed it. But after the House received the bill again according to the usual procedures, a new thing happened, according to SpaceNews.
“The Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives, with an unusual move, then took over the amended bill in the Senate and repealed NASA’s provisions, replacing it with the text of two laws on the right to vote,” SpaceNews reported.
“They did so because HR 5746 has already passed the House and Senate,” the report adds, “so the amended version could go directly to the Senate without the threat of Senate filibusters, who oppose the voting rights law.”
As for NASA’s leasing, it’s still up in the air. But a Beyer spokesman told SpaceNews he hoped the issue would be resolved in future laws.
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