Sen. Russ Feingold is trying to sneak into legislation that would expand the definition of “children” under a program called CHAMPVA from people age 23 or below to age 26 and below a ban on spending money to return astronauts to the Moon.
The text of the legislation can be found in S. 3356, which has been referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs and has no cosponsors as of this moment:
“SEC. 2. CANCELLATION OF HUMAN LUNAR MISSION UNDER CONSTELLATION PROGRAM OF NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
“(a) In General- Except as provided in subsection (b), the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration may not obligate or expend any amount to support a human lunar mission, including any such mission under the Constellation Program of the Administration.
“(b) Exception- The Administrator may use amounts obligated or otherwise made available before the date of the enactment of this Act for a human lunar mission, including amounts for a human lunar mission under the Constellation Program, to wind down any activity or operations related to such mission.”
The return to the Moon program would be cancelled under the Obama space plan. The Obama space plan is hotly opposed by most members of Congress and is highly unpopular with most Americans.
The question arises, why is Feingold doing this and in a piece of unrelated legislation? Is he just trying to help out the president, whose plan to choose not to go to the Moon is beset on all sides? Or does Sen. Feingold have a deep seated aversion toward space exploration in general?
It should be noted, on the latter question, that a previous senator from Wisconsin, William Proxmire, was a near fanatical foe of the US space program for over 25 years, even seeking to curtail the Apollo Project shortly before the assassination of President Kennedy.
It should also be noted that Sen. Russ Feingold, in trying to help President Barack Obama scrap the return to the Moon, is not acting out of any provincial, parochial motivations. The University of Wisconsin at Madison is the home of the Fusion Technology Institute, which is researching ways that helium 3, a substance not found in nature on Earth, but in some abundance on the Moon, can be used to fuel clean, abundant fusion energy. The Fusion Technology Institute may be a small employer compared to, say, Wisconsin’s ginseng farming industry, which Feingold is struggling to protect. But if people do return to the Moon, mine helium 3, and jump start a fusion energy industry on Earth, the staff of the Fusion Technology Institute at UW-Madison would grow.
For the same reason Sen. Feingold is clearly not motivated by environmental concerns. The prospect of helium 3 fueled fusion power plants replacing fossil fuels clearly does not enter into his thinking.
No, it appears that Sen. Feingold is motivated purely by political ideology or-perhaps-just whim.
Sen. Feingold is up for reelection this year, by the way.
Source: Text of S. 3356, Thomas.Gov
Fusion Technology Institute
Lawmakers Push for Assistance for State Ginseng Growers, Wisconsin Ag Connection, May 18th, 2010