By Jackson Richman
After months of controversial deliberation and a narrow committee vote, the Senate confirmed Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) on Thursday to be the next chief of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was absent due to recovering from cancer treatment.
The confirmation almost experienced a crash landing as McCain’s counterpart, Jeff Flake, threatened to vote against Bridenstine. On Wednesday, Flake switched from voting against to voting in favor of ending cloture on the nomination after receiving assurances he would be able to talk to CIA director Mike Pompeo, who is President Trump’s nominee to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
At Bridenstine’s hearing last November, Nelson berated the former Navy and Air Force pilot. “[While your] time as a pilot and your service to our country in the military is certainly commendable, [it doesn’t qualify you to] make the complex and nuanced engineering, safety and budgetary decisions for which the head of NASA must be accountable.” Nelson told the Oklahoma congressman.
“Your past statements on climate change are troubling from a scientific perspective and have sparked great concern from climate experts around the nation, which brings me to my greatest concern regarding your nomination,” Nelson added.
Additionally, Democrats like Nelson criticized Bridenstine for his position on same-sex marriage.
“The space community can see through Nelson’s rhetoric, and they know that this is a phony crusade,” a source close to the nomination told The National Discourse last month. “Nobody really thinks he cares about Jim’s position on gay marriage.” The source spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the nomination.
Bridenstine’s confirmation comes as NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot announced his retirement last month. Lightfoot became the longest-serving Acting Administrator in the agency’s history.