Published: Sat, April 21, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Senate confirms Jim Bridenstine as NASA's administrator after months of uncertainty

Senate confirms Jim Bridenstine as NASA's administrator after months of uncertainty

Earlier this week, Vice President Pence praised Bridenstine as a "a great champion of the men and women at NASA and a great champion of the president's vision for NASA, and for American leadership in space". He joins a Cabinet already loaded with people who question the near-universal scientific consensus that climate change is real and that human activity is the primary cause.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R- Ariz., held up a procedural vote Wednesday to advance Bridenstine's confirmation by siding with Democrats in voting to block his confirmation before ultimately switching his vote to yes. Marco Rubio of Florida had expressed strong reservations about the nomination.

Echoing the mostly partisan divisions triggered by his nomination, Bridenstine was confirmed by a vote of 50 to 49.

Senators on both sides of the aisle argued that Bridenstine is too politically divisive, wasn't qualified to lead such a large organization, and has no scientific experience to speak of.

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Bridenstine will take over the role after the previous administrator Charles Bolden stepped down in January 2017. In a Senate floor speech on Thursday, Rubio claimed that this was because he believes in deference to the president on major nominations.

Democrats hammered Bridenstine for his views on LGBTQ rights during committee hearings.

Even with enthusiasm for space exploration, Bridenstine is a climate change denier and, as a result, has attracted the ire of many reputable scientists.

His background includes service as a naval aviator and a stint as the director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium. During his tenure, the nonprofit suffered financial losses, and an investigation by the Project On Government Oversight found that Bridenstine used the nonprofit's resources to benefit a company he co-owned, according to a report from The Daily Beast this week. Ted Cruz (Texas) and James Inhofe (Okla.), have flocked to Bridenstine's defense.

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However, Nelson said he would work with Bridenstine if he did become NASA administrator. And he blasted "cynical politicians" for "attempting to malign his character". "NASA can not go two and a half years [from Trump's inauguration] without a director", Rubio said.

Rubio, a Republican, initially voiced similar qualms, saying last September that putting Bridenstine in what's traditionally a nonpartisan post could be "devastating to the space program".

Bridenstine has won over advocates of a more efficient NASA that relies on private companies to get to space, who see him as a potential change-maker, and also some non-partisan figures like Bill Nye, the science educator and CEO of the Planetary Society.

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