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Senate Narrowly Confirms Trump’s NASA Administrator Nominee

Rep. James Bridenstine / Getty Images
• April 19, 2018 4:33 pm

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The Senate on Thursday confirmed Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R., Okla.) along a party-line vote to lead NASA.

The vote was 50-49 after Democratic members expressed concerns over Bridenstine's lack of a scientific background and comments he made on climate change, the Washington Post reported.

"James Bridenstine is a climate denier with no scientific background who has made a career out of ignoring science," Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) said.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) reluctantly voted for his nomination, saying his lack of enthusiasm stemmed from his belief NASA should be "led by a space professional."

"I was not enthused about the nomination. Nothing personal about Mr. Bridenstine. NASA is an organization that needs to be led by a space professional," Rubio said.

He justified his vote by arguing it has been the tradition of the Senate to give deference to the president on choosing qualifications.

Bridenstine's supporters point to his experience in aviation and his long-expressed support for space exploration. The Post noted:

Bridenstine is a former naval aviator who ran the Tulsa Air and Space Museum before coming to Congress in 2013. An avid supporter of space exploration, he sponsored the American Space Renaissance Act, a wide-ranging bill that touched on national security, how best to deal with debris in space, and how to regulate the commercial space industry.

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."

A procedural vote Wednesday to advance Bridenstine's nomination stalled as Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) initially sided with the Democrats, but he ultimately changed his vote.

The confirmation comes after NASA went without a permanent leader for 15 months. It is a notable time for the space agency as it has renewed plans to return to the moon after retiring the space shuttle program in 2011.