Bipartisan Group of 61 House Members Urges Senate to Confirm Bridenstine

Bipartisan Group of 61 House Members Urges Senate to Confirm Bridenstine

A bipartisan group of 61 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Senate leaders today urging confirmation of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) to be NASA’s new Administrator. Bridenstine was originally nominated by President Trump in September 2017, but he is reportedly opposed by all Senate Democrats and at least one and possibly more Republicans.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has not brought the nomination to the floor presumably because he does not believe there are sufficient votes for it to pass.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma), nominee for NASA Administrator.

Today’s letter was signed by all Republicans on the two committees to which Bridenstine is assigned — the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).  Twelve Democrats also signed.

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot announced last week that he will retire at the end of April.   The letter argues that his departure makes Bridenstine’s immediate confirmation all that much more critical.  “It would be a travesty to America’s space program for it to remain leaderless at this critical time when America’s space industry is making rapid advances that will set the course of space leadership for decades to come.”

The letter, addressed to McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), urges the Senate to confirm Bridenstine “swiftly” because “now is not the time to leave NASA rudderless.”

Bridenstine was nominated in September and approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on a 14-13 party-line vote in November.  He had to be renominated when the second session of the 115th Congress began and he was reapproved by the committee on a 14-13 vote in January.  No further action has been taken.

Marco Rubio (R-Florida) is the only Republican who has publicly come out against Bridenstine. He argues that a politician should not lead NASA.   If all 49 Democrats and Rubio voted against him, it would be a 50-50 tie, which Vice President Mike Pence would break in Bridenstine’s favor.  Thus it appears there is at least one other Republican who also would vote no.  There are strong rumors about who that is, and possibly a third Republican, but they have not made their views public.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) has been leading the Democratic opposition to Bridenstine and reiterated it after Lightfoot announced his retirement.  He said there are many “highly qualified individuals” who can lead NASA until the White House nominates “a space professional” for the job.  One of Nelson’s complaints is that Bridenstine is not technically qualified to run the agency at this critical juncture when it will be certifying three new human spaceflight vehicles — the two commercial crew systems and Orion.

The letter from House members cites Bridenstine’s experience as a naval aviator and holding responsibility “for coordinating command and control of the battlefield from an airborne platform, with thousands of lives and billions of dollars affected by his decisions.”


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