NASA nominee faces flak from Democrats over past political battles

NASA nominee faces flak from Democrats over past political battles 

Posted: 12:03 pm Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

By Jamie Dupree

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead NASA, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), strongly defended his record in Congress on Wednesday, as he faced sharp attacks from Democrats on a Senate panel, who sharply criticized some of his past political stances, arguing that the Oklahoma Republican might not be the right person to lead NASA.

“Does NASA need someone who has been so involved in politics?” Sen. Bill Nelson (R-FL) asked at a Senate hearing.

“A NASA Administrator has to be responsible for the comments that they make,” Nelson added, as he rebuked Bridenstine for supporting GOP candidates who had expressed strong opposition to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Bridenstine fully acknowledged that he has taken political stances since being elected to Congress, but said that shouldn’t matter in this confirmation debate.

“It’s also true that as a member of the House of Representatives, representing Oklahoma, I have advocated for issues that are not relevant to NASA,” Bridenstine said, as he squared off with Nelson, who has often taken on the role of NASA’s main defender in the U.S Senate.

After Nelson’s criticism, other GOP Senators rushed to Bridenstine’s support, with one labeling Nelson’s comments, “wildly inappropriate.”

“I cannot imagine a better person to head this, or any other agency,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said of Bridenstine, in an impassioned defense of the Republican Congressman.

“While NASA should not be driven by politics, we have seen people from the political arena do very well at NASA,” Bridenstine added.

“I don’t think that service in Congress is disqualifying,” Bridenstine said, as he was challenged by Democrats on past political remarks, his stance on climate change, and whether he has enough science experience to lead the space agency.

Democrats also brought up Bridenstine’s work as head of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, arguing that his stewardship encountered budgetary troubles.

Bridenstine disputed that, saying the charge was all about politics.

“Those accusations are not accurate,” Bridenstine added.

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