It must be pretty big, if Jim Oberstar is in trouble.
This is great news for advocates of commercial spaceflight. When the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act was passed a few years ago, Oberstar (then in the minority) fought to have the FAA regulate passenger safety for space vehicles with nonsensical talk of a “tombstone mentality,” despite the consensus among experts that it didn’t know how to do it, and that it would do nothing except strangle the infant industry in the cradle. The compromise was that it would be hands off until 2012, unless there was an accident to cause a revisit of the policy.
Well, the industry hasn’t moved along as fast as was hoped at the time, and we’re still in a situation in which the FAA doesn’t really have a handle about affordable safety requirements, though it will have to start regulating it in two years, absent further congressional action. Industry proponents have feared to raise the issue, because with the Democrat takeover in 2006, Oberstar had taken over the chair of the relevant committee.
There has been hope (looking almost certain now to all other than Dems whistling past the graveyard) that the Republicans would take back at least the House this fall, which would mean that his power to block an extension would be reduced significantly. If he ends up not even being in the Congress at all, let alone on the committee, that would be great news for progress and sensible commercial space policy.