Nelson Says Not Enough Votes to Confirm Bridenstine as NASA Chief

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Politico reports the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the next NASA administrator might be doomed when the full Senate votes on it.

“I know that at this point they do not have the votes,” he said. “This is the last thing in the world that NASA needs. NASA has never had a partisan politician. It needs a space professional as its leader.” Marco Rubio hasn’t taken an official on the nomination, but has criticized Bridenstine’s selection.

Bridenstine had a rough confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee where Nelson is the ranking member. Democrats criticized his positions on climate change and social issues. They also expressed concerns over his lack of an engineering or science background and inexperience in running large organizations.

Republicans defended Bridenstine, saying he had the knowledge and experience to run the space agency. Republicans control the Senate 51-49. Mike Pence can break 50-50 ties.

NASA has been without an appointed administrator since the Obama Administration ended on Jan. 20, 2017. Robert Lightfoot has been serving as acting administrator until the Senate approves a replacement.

The Trump Administration had yet to nominate anyone for the position of NASA deputy administrator, a position that also requires Senate approval.

  • therealdmt

    Regarding the outlook for the troubled nomination vote, Nelson being the Frank of Bridenstine

  • ThomasLMatula

    Guess they just don’t want an advocate for New Space to run the old Space Agency. If I was the President I would pull the funding of SLS in response. That will hit those pork masters where it hurts.

  • JS Initials

    Since James Webb quit as NASA administrator on September, 1968, every NASA administrator since then (50 years passing) has been a puppet or worse of Congress, and to a lesser extent of the White House, or they simply were irrelevant or misguided to the point of leading the public along a road leading to two tragedies and billions of dollars worth of overruns in everything NASA touched. Some will argue that Jim Fletcher was OK! After all, he did persuade the Gipper to support the space station project, when it was still called “Freedom”. But remember the originally forecast price-tag for that orbiting station? and the scheduled completion date? Does porkbarrel politics sound about right?

  • Kirk

    But they need to keep funding SLS so they can build DSG to have a place for Orion to visit every year or two once they decommission ISS in 2025. Isn’t that the plan?

  • Paul451

    I hope you feel terrible.

  • ReSpaceAge

    Will be fun to watch a SpaceX BFS dock with DSG to drop people or supplies, then continue on to a moon landing and a trip back to earth.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, they need a new shovel to fill up the hole they dug with the last shovel so they have room to dig a new hole.

  • ReSpaceAge
  • therealdmt


  • Larque

    I must correct your history. Jim Fletcher left office in 1977. Jim Beggs was NASA Administrator when Reagan proposed the space station.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    I was happy with Charles Bolden. I’d could be happy with Wendy Lawrence or Shannon Lucid. The job takes good management skills and experience with running a large organization, but it also needs somebody with real science credentials. Blood sucking lawyers need not apply.

  • windbourne

    Problem is, that most ppl , esp. bright ppl, have a political POV. Iow, they are partisan by nature.

  • Robert G. Oler

    he is a light weight

  • Robert G. Oler

    he is a fan of SLS dont kid yourself

  • Tom Billings

    Given the political impasse that confirming *any* NASA Administrator from this WH is bound to run into, I wonder, are we are seeing the beginning of the end for NASA, without realizing it?

    Basically, Bridenstine’s nomination is held up because NASA Center pols in the Senate Committee Majority aren’t being guaranteed something they have demanded from the WH, because otherwise the purely partisan opposition from the Democrats *would*not* have a chance of stopping the nomination. So, we have a WH with the standard low political profit from spaceflight being unwilling to give NASA Center Senators what they demand, even if it keeps NASA from having an Administrator instead of an Acting Administrator. At some point, people will start questioning the need for a NASA Administrator at all, since he is obviously nothing more than a fall guy flunky for the funding committee Chairs.

    That is only one step from questioning the need for NASA as a centrally coordinated “national” agency for spaceflight. Have we reached the stage where each Center is treated separately, and then plans separately, and acts separately? If so, ….is this really so bad? We would have a network of Centers, each still doing things in Space, probably buying their own transport from the cheapest providers.

    If NASA HQ goes away, I cannot see SLS/Orion surviving in this environment. Could the SLS/Orion coalition be sealing its own fate, through making it clear that NASA does not plan, but is lead hither thither and yon by congressional committees? We’ve all been seeing NASA funding reflecting its bought and sold for politics nature for some decades now starting with its Administrator. Could we see in the next 5 years that the fish will, in fact, rot from the head down?

  • Tom Billings

    He could be the reincarnation of Goddard, Von Braun, Korolev and Web, all in one package, and the Dems would still vote against out of partisan reflex, while Marco Rubio would be sitting on his hands demanding whatever it is that he wants from the WH. I am contemplating 7 more years without a NASA Administrator, and wondering if that’s all that bad.

  • Tom Billings

    “… but it also needs somebody with real science credentials. Blood sucking lawyers need not apply.”

    The idea that academic credentials in science are needed to administer a group as large as NASA is very questionable. The idea that an administrator needs to know the law governing his department is actually rather well-founded. Intrinsic sympathies for one group or another to be served by NASA is something that leads to tunnel-vision into the needs of that one group.

    I far too often am seeing the idea that “If he doesn’t favor employing the type of people who *I* want NASA funding, then he’s simply not competent.” This sort of attitude is destroying support for NASA in the general population, where support has been “a mile wide and an inch deep” for 45 years. If the conception if NASA is built only along partisan academic vs business lines, then NASA is already walking dead.

  • Agree

  • I’m glad that Bridenstine supports lunar return and understands the value of lunar polar ice particularly its use as propellant. But he clearly supports SLS, DSG, and is primarily influenced by Dr Spudis — none of which tends towards the most cost-effective approaches. He also has a security bent to space which I think significantly limits his vision of what space can be used for. In particular, his view (as stated on his blog) is that crew should go to the Moon only occasionally to repair telerobots which harvest and process ice into propellant. This wholly misunderstands that the great, historic value of human return is the beginning of humanity moving off Earth. I doubt that Pence or Trump have a good enough understanding of what the architectural choices are otherwise I suspect that Trump in particular would favor a far more historically significant approach to America in space than the default (SLS-Orion-DSG). The approach described at would achieve far greater results for less cost than just the default path.