Posted: 2:41 pm Thursday, April 19th, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
After operating for almost fourteen months with acting leadership, NASA finally has a new Administrator, as the U.S. Senate voted Thursday to confirm Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) as the new head of the space agency, overcoming reluctance among some Republicans, and strong opposition from Democrats who said Bridenstine who too political for the job. The vote was 50-49.
“It is an honor to be confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as NASA Administrator,” Bridenstine said in a statement. “I am humbled by this opportunity.”
“Jim Bridenstine has been very passionate for trying to get NASA back on focus with a big vision and a big mission,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
Pleased the Senate finally confirmed Jim Bridenstine–friend, colleague, fellow pilot, and resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma–as NASA Administrator today. I look forward to working with you in this new position. https://t.co/3txpyDMSDX
— Jim Inhofe (@JimInhofe) April 19, 2018
“I’ve known Congressman Bridenstine for a long time, and I know he is just the man for this important undertaking,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
But among Republicans, there were clearly reservations, even as the vote took place.
“I was not enthused by the nomination,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on the Senate floor, as he acknowledged that continuing with temporary leadership at the space agency was not a good answer.
Rubio on the floor explaining his turnaround to support Bridenstine for NASA chief
"We give great deference to the president … and the more important the job, the more discretion the president deserves"
— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) April 19, 2018
“There’s no way NASA can go two years and x-number of months without a permanent Administration,” Rubio added, his tone and body language sending the message that he would still have someone other than Bridenstine leading the space agency.
For Democrats, Bridenstine’s more conservative political views – especially on climate change – overrode his military experience as a pilot in the Air Force.
“Just because you know how to fly a plane does not mean you have the skills and experience to lead the federal government’s space agency,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).
Remember the part in the astronaut movie when the unqualified former member of Congress running NASA saves the day by making the right decision regarding a launch? Me neither.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 19, 2018
“In short, NASA needs an Administrator who will be driven by science and not by politics,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI).
But as with most issues in the Congress right now, Democrats are don’t have enough votes to derail a nominee of President Trump – unless some Republicans break ranks to join them.
Bridenstine will take over NASA at a time when the space agency has just received a sizable budget boost from a recent spending deal in Congress, and as President Trump is pressing NASA to put together plans for a mission to Mars.
After confirmation of Jim Bridenstine to be the 13th administrator of NASA, Acting Admin. Lightfoot said "He joins our great agency at a time when we are poised to accomplish historic milestones across the full spectrum of our work." Read full statement: https://t.co/uLtT7uTqei pic.twitter.com/n4mfveG2kQ
— NASA (@NASA) April 19, 2018
“I look forward to working with the outstanding team at NASA to achieve the President’s vision for American leadership in space,” said Bridenstine.