Morhard, Droegemeier Nominations Approved by Committee

Morhard, Droegemeier Nominations Approved by Committee

The nominations of Jim Morhard to be Deputy Administrator of NASA and Kelvin Droegemeier to be Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) were approved by the Senate Commerce Committee today. Both were adopted by voice vote with no dissent.  The next step will be a vote by the full Senate.

James Morhard, nominee for NASA Deputy Administrator, at his confirmation hearing Aug. 23, 2018. Credit: NASA

Morhard, 62, is a lawyer who currently serves as the Senate Deputy Sergeant at Arms.  He has no experience in space or aeronautics, but only one Senator questioned his qualifications for the job during his confirmation hearing.  In response to questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Morhard said that his experiences as staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee from 2003-2005 and as Deputy Sergeant at Arms from 2015 to the present demonstrate his leadership abilities and his familiarity with issues such as budgeting and security.  Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) asked about his views on climate change and he replied that he agreed that climate change is happening and humans play a role, but would not go so far as to say humans play the dominant role, which Markey said is the scientific consensus.

At the markup today, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the top Democrat on the committee, said he was “encouraged” that in communications after the hearing, Morhard “acknowledged that the climate is changing and that it is extremely likely that human activities are the dominant cause of this warming.”

Morhard is a close friend of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who personally appeared on his behalf at the nomination hearing.  That, and the fact there was no committee opposition to him, could bode well in terms of how quickly his nomination is taken up by the full Senate.

Kelvin Droegemeier, nominee to be OSTP Director. Credit: University of Oklahoma.

Droegemeier, 60, is a renowned meteorologist who specializes in severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.  He is currently Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma.

His nomination as OSTP Director was praised by Republicans and Democrats before, during and after the confirmation hearing.  Nelson said today that the committee received “dozens of endorsements” for Droegemeier and”I think it’s safe to say the research community is eager for this committee to quickly confirm the nominee.”

The OSTP Director position has been vacant since the end of the Obama presidency on January 20, 2017.  OSTP has less to do with space policy now that the White House National Space Council has been reconstituted, but is still involved.  The Director of OSTP is a member of the Space Council and OSTP is involved in issues like spectrum policy and space weather that include space activities.

Committee chairman John Thune (R-SD) did not specifically make any remarks about Morhard or Droegemeier.  They were two of four nominees considered today (the others were for an assistant secretary of transportation and the Amtrak board of directors).  Thune said only that all “are qualified for their positions” and he hopes they will be confirmed by the Senate quickly.

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