The manager’s amendment to the U.S. competitiveness bill senators are now debating on the Senate floor includes a $10 billion authorization for Blue Origin, the space flight company owned by Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosOn The Money: IRS to start monthly payments of child tax credit July 15 | One-fourth of Americans took financial hits in 2020: Fed Pro-tax millionaires protesting in front of Bezos’s homes Musk’s SpaceX has a competitive advantage over Bezos’ Blue Origin MORE, one of the world’s richest men.
The large authorization is raising the hackles of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: 51 percent oppose Sanders-led resolution to block weapons sales to Israel McConnell sends warning shot on Schumer’s China bill Majority say Hamas responsible for Mideast violence: poll MORE (I-Vt.), a frequent critic of Bezos. Sanders took to the Senate floor Tuesday to speak out against what he fears is the coming privatization of nation’s space program.
The $10 billion authorization goes to NASA’s Artemis lunar landing program and directs the agency to award a second contract for building a lunar lander.
Blue Origin lost the original NASA contract to SpaceX, the company founded by billionaire Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskThe day President Kennedy sent America to the moon Five reasons why cryptocurrencies are raising alarm China bans Tesla cars from some government compounds: report MORE, and later protested NASA’s decision as “a flawed acquisition.”
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairwoman Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate Commerce advances Biden’s top science nominee This week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning Will Biden’s NASA win the space race with China? MORE (D-Wash.) helped include the authorization in the bill that passed out of her committee.
She explained Tuesday that the second contract is necessary to create “redundancy” in NASA plans to land astronauts on the moon by 2024.
“That was in the committee’s manager’s amendment,” she said. “We put in 100 amendments, and that was one of them. That got accepted.
“We need redundancy in the system, so this is the normal way that NASA usually does it,” she said. “Trump had requested $3.4 billion for this, and then Congress never did anything about it.
“We basically put in NASA and that money for five years,” she added.
But the move isn’t sitting well with Sanders, who spoke out against it.
“I worry very much that what we are seeing now is two of the wealthiest people in this country, Mr. Elon Musk and Mr. Bezos, deciding that they are going to take control over our space industry,” Sanders said on the Senate floor shortly before a series of votes.
“I have got a real problem with the authorization of $10 billion going to somebody who, among other things, is the wealthiest person in this country,” he added.
Sanders has filed an amendment to the bill to block the authorization.
Cantwell said Tuesday afternoon that she wasn’t sure whether the Sanders amendment would get a vote.