Rubio, Nelson Blast Trump’s NASA Pick
By Marc Caputo, POLITICO Report
Florida’s senators are voicing opposition to President Donald Trump’s pick for NASA administrator, Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine, saying a “politician” shouldn’t lead the nation’s space program.
Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson wouldn’t say whether they’d buck the president and vote against Bridenstine, who was nominated Friday. But they suggested the GOP congressman’s political past would needlessly spark a partisan fight in the Senate that could ultimately damage NASA.
Bridenstine also trashed Rubio during last year’s GOP presidential primary, although Rubio said he doesn’t hold that against the congressman.
The bipartisan pushback against Trump’s nominee for NASA administrator underscores the importance of the agency to Florida, home of the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Nelson, as a member of Congress, in 1986 flew on a Space Shuttle Columbia mission; he also has a home on what’s known as the state’s Space Coast.
“The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” Nelson said in a brief written statement to POLITICO.
Nelson serves as the ranking member on the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, which oversees NASA and would hear Bridenstine’s nomination. Bridenstine’s office did not return calls seeking comment. The White House officially announced in a statement on Friday night that Trump intended to nominate Bridenstine to the role of NASA administrator.
Rubio said he and Nelson “share the same concerns” and worry Bridenstine’s “political baggage” would weigh him down in a GOP-led Senate that has grown increasingly resistant to Trump. NASA can’t afford that, Rubio said.
“I just think it could be devastating for the space program. Obviously, being from Florida, I’m very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission,” Rubio told POLITICO.
“It’s the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics and it’s at a critical juncture in its history,” Rubio said. “I would hate to see an administrator held up -- on [grounds of] partisanship, political arguments, past votes, or statements made in the past -- because the agency can’t afford it and it can’t afford the controversy.”
Noting NASA’s mission to Mars, Rubio said the agency is at critical moment in its history and he would prefer an administrator who has the “respect of the people who work there from a leadership and even a scientific perspective.”
Cristiano Lima contributed to this report.
Read the full POLITICO article
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