WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Science space subcommittee announced March 10 she will run for the Senate seat currently held by the retiring Barbara Mikulski, further altering the space policy landscape on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) announced her plan to run for the Senate in a two-minute video released March 10. She is the second candidate to formally declare an intent to run for the seat being vacated by Mikulski, after Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) did so March 4.

By electing to run for the Senate, Edwards foregoes running for re-election in the House.

In the video announcing her Senate campaign, Edwards mentions her work on the space subcommittee, which she joined in 2011 and became its ranking member in 2013. “As the ranking Democrat on the space subcommittee, I passed a bipartisan investment in NASA, for space programs that employ over 10,000 Marylanders and lift our sights just a little higher,” she said.

That language is likely a reference to NASA authorization bills passed by the House both in 2014 and in February. The 2014 bill died when the Senate failed to take action on it, while the more recent bill, functionally identical to last year’s bill, is awaiting action in the Senate.

Edwards and subcommittee Chairman Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) developed those bills after a NASA authorization bill in 2013 was subject to a rare partisan debate within the committee. The version jointly developed by Palazzo and Edwards won approval by the full House last June on a 401–2 vote, and again Feb. 10 on a voice vote.

Edwards’ decision to run for the Senate adds to the shakeup in space policy triggered by Mikulski’s decision March 2 not to run for a sixth term in 2016. Mikulski is the ranking member of the full Senate Appropriations Committee and its commerce, justice, and science subcommittee, which funds NASA. Mikulski has used that position to win funding for many agency programs, making her one of the most influential members of Congress on space issues.


Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...