OGDEN -- A frustrated Rep. Rob Bishop left Washington, D.C., for Utah on Friday afternoon, taking time only to call the Standard-Examiner from the airport and lambaste House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not holding a vote on a bill he thinks is the best compromise yet to save jobs at ATK Space Systems.
"We voted on virtually nothing, we moved nothing," he said as background loudspeaker voices blared flight numbers. "That's part of the frustration."
Bishop is one of a number of congressmen from states that build rocket parts for NASA who are working to keep the Constellation moon rocket program from being taken out of NASA's budget, as President Barack Obama's proposed budget calls for.
Part of Constellation is the Ares rocket, whose motor is built at ATK Space Systems in Utah.
Both the Senate and the House are working on bills that keep the program from being canceled outright. Congressmen from Utah, Texas, Alabama and Florida are trying to craft language that requires NASA to continue to build and buy the type of heavy-lift rocket motors needed for manned space flight. All those states would lose thousands of jobs and billions of dollars if Constellation is canceled.
Bishop said he likes a Senate bill currently before Congress and could live with one already passed by the House.
But, he said Friday, a compromise bill recently proposed by House Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon, D-Tenn, combines what Bishop says is the best of both previous bills.
Bishop said Gordon's bill is the one he really likes best.
"There is some indication the Senate might be willing to go along with this," he said, "but it has to be voted and they canceled today's (Friday's) session at 8 (Thursday) night and are not going to be in session Monday or Tuesday" except for procedural matters.
With no votes allowed next Friday, he said, that means the bill has to be voted on Wednesday or Thursday, before the federal fiscal year ends at midnight Thursday.
After that, Bishop said, without appropriations directives, "NASA will go on its own and ignore what Congress wants."
The bill doesn't tell NASA it has to buy rockets from ATK Space Systems. What the bill does, Bishop said, "is specifically put in there that we want to have the solid rocket that will take man into space, but we also want the larger rockets that will take cargo into space."
"By specifically saying we want to keep a solid rocket program, it basically says what we produce in Utah, that we maintain that production."
Bishop said Pelosi is opposed to the NASA manned space program, but the bill has bipartisan support.
"Gordon, the chair of the science committee, as well as the ranking Republican, are working to get this through," he said.
"This would be a great bill for us and would get NASA's attention that we desperately need them to hear."
Bishop said the trick will be getting the bill scheduled for a vote next week.
"If the Speaker will just schedule it, we will be in great shape," he said.
"If not, we're still not dead, but we're on life support. This is probably the most important issue we're fighting for right now."