Senate panel advances Trump’s controversial NASA nominee

Senate panel advances Trump’s controversial NASA nominee

A Senate committee voted Wednesday to approve President Trump’s highly contentious nominee to lead NASA.

The decision to advance Rep. Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineNASA head: ‘No reason to doubt’ climate change science The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote Overnight Energy: EPA moves to roll back chemical plant safety rule | NASA chief says humans contribute to climate change | Pruitt gets outside lawyer MORE's (R-Okla.) nomination came down to a party-line 14-13 vote in the Senate Commerce Committee.

Democrats strongly objected to Bridenstine, labeling him a politically polarizing figure with little scientific or technical expertise. They also objected to his skepticism of climate change science and his past statements on homosexuality and LGBT rights.

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“The NASA administrator, in my judgment, ought to be a skilled executive capable of managing a portfolio of many of the most challenging technical projects undertaken by humankind, especially at this point, as we are venturing out into the cosmos,” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonPoll: 8 in 10 people in key states concerned about driverless cars Ted Cruz and Bill Nelson give NASA a reality check on privatizing International Space Station Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade MORE (Fla.), the top Democrat on the committee, said before senators voted on Bridenstine.

“The NASA administrator must have a strong scientific and a technical background, and the NASA administrator must not be political,” he continued. “I believe, Mr. Chairman, that the nominee falls short.”

No Republicans spoke in favor of Bridenstine at the short Wednesday committee meeting.

But at a raucous hearing on Bridenstine last week, many in the GOP came to his defense.

“I am proud and deeply gratified that President Trump has nominated Rep. Bridenstine to lead NASA,” Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPro-Trump super PAC raises .5 million in 6 weeks Trump has exposed Democratic hypocrisy on prison reform Tapper lists 'conspiracy theories' Trump has shared MORE (R-Texas) said at the time.

“And I will say, this committee’s sorry performance during the confirmation hearing may not be surprising in the current environment, but is disappointing nonetheless," he continued.

Bridenstine will now be up for a vote by the whole Senate when Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he backs Mueller probe after classified briefing Overnight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Senate Dems’ campaign chief ‘welcomes’ midterm support from Clintons MORE (R-Ky.) schedules it.