As Senate goes home for Christmas, Bridenstine still on launch pad for NASA job

As Senate goes home for Christmas, Bridenstine still on launch pad for NASA job 

Posted: 9:52 pm Thursday, December 21st, 2017

By Jamie Dupree

Facing resistance from several Republican Senators, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head NASA remains on hold, as the Senate went home for a Christmas break on Thursday evening with no sign of any plans to vote on the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), leaving the Oklahoma Congressman in limbo into the New Year.

“There are a couple of Republicans that have questions,” acknowledged Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), a home state colleague of Bridenstine, who has been pressing others to back his nomination. “I’ve met with them personally.”

But Lankford’s lobbying effort with other GOP Senators hasn’t freed up Bridenstine’s nomination for the top job at America’s space agency.

One of the Republicans who has been cool to Bridenstine’s choice as NASA chief is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who said in November that he was “not convinced” that Bridenstine was the right choice for NASA.

The inaction by the full Senate means Bridenstine must wait into 2018, when the GOP margin in the Senate will shrink by one vote to 51-49, with the arrival of Doug Jones, who won an upset victory for U.S. Senate in Alabama earlier this month.

That means, if Rubio and just one other GOP Senator went against Bridenstine, he would not be able to secure a majority in the Senate.

For now, Bridenstine is not giving up on the NASA job.

“The Congressman is not asking the President to withdraw his nomination,” said Bridenstine’s spokeswoman Sheryl Kaufman.

“We continue to hope the Senate will vote on the nomination within a reasonable period of time,” Kaufman added.

“Apparently there are a number of Republican Senators who do not want him to be NASA’s Administrator,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) told me earlier this month, as the one-time astronaut has led Democrats in opposition to Bridenstine, arguing NASA needs a scientist, not a politician, as the agency’s leader.

“NASA needs a space professional,” Nelson added.

Bridenstine was nominated in September by President Trump. His selection was approved by a Senate panel in early November.

When he was elected to Congress in 2012, Bridenstine pledged to serve only three terms in the U.S. House, meaning 2018 would be his last year in office.

“He is not running for re-election,” spokeswoman Kaufman said, when asked about Bridenstine’s future plans.

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