Spacenews.com's The sound and fury over a NASA authorization bill says that a NASA authorization bill isn't required and most years the US Congress doesn't pass one.
Question: If that's so, then what useful purpose do activities and deliberations NASA authorization bills serve?
However, left out of many discussions about the bill is this key fact: the bill doesn’t actually need to get through that legislative process. A NASA authorization bill is not required for the agency to operate, and most years Congress does not pass one.
That’s important because it’s unlikely that the bill would become law in anything like its current form. The House bill differs significantly from a NASA authorization bill introduced in the Senate in November, which lacks the language about a 2028 lunar return or how to develop a lunar lander. Assuming the Senate passes its NASA bill — it cleared the Senate Commerce Committee last year but hasn’t been taken up by the full Senate — it would need to be reconciled with the House bill.
Moreover, getting anything through the Senate requires a process known as unanimous consent, a streamlined approach that can be halted if just one senator objects. “Typically, all NASA bills, all space bills, pass by unanimous consent,” said Alicia Brown, a Democratic staff member on the Senate Commerce Committee, during a panel discussion last month at the Commercial Space Transportation Conference. “It’s a pretty high threshold.”