House members urge Senate to confirm Trump's NASA nominee

House members urge Senate to confirm Trump's NASA nominee

A bipartisan group of more than 60 members of the House is urging the Senate to advance the nomination of 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 (R-Okla.), President TrumpDonald John TrumpComey: Trump's 'Spygate' claims are made up Trump taps vocal anti-illegal immigration advocate for State Dept's top refugee job Seattle Seahawks player: Trump is 'an idiot' for saying protesting NFL players 'shouldn’t be in the country' MORE's pick to head NASA.

In a letter to Senate 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.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote Schumer: Trump should take Kim Jong Un off 'trip coin' Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' MORE (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday, the House lawmakers urged the Senate to confirm Bridenstine "swiftly."

"With many milestones fast approaching, NASA must have a presidentially appointed and Senate confirmed leader in place," the letter read.

Trump nominated Bridenstine to lead the agency in September, but the congressman has faced a number of hurdles in the confirmation process — including pushback from Republicans.

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Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Experts worry North Korea will retaliate with hacks over summit | FBI works to disrupt Russian botnet | Trump officials look to quell anger over ZTE | Obama makes case for tighter regs on tech Putting pressure on Trump, House passes bill barring government from doing business with ZTE The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Tensions mount for House Republicans MORE (R-Fla.) has been among the most outspoken against Bridenstine's appointment. Rubio said in September that he was weary of Bridenstine's nomination due to criticism surrounding his experience.

Bridenstine does not hold an advanced degree in science, but he has a background in naval aviation and is a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

“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 in the fall. "It’s the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics and it’s at a critical juncture in its history."

Tuesday's letter follows news that NASA's acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, will be retiring from the agency at the end of April.

"It would be a travesty to America's space program for it to remain leaderless at this critical time when America's space industry is making rapid advances that will set the course of space leadership for decades to come," the House members wrote in their letter. "This is why it is vitally important that the Senate take up and approve Jim Bridenstine's nomination."

Bridenstine has twice been voted out of the Senate Commerce Committee, but his nomination has yet to be brought to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill Defense bill moves forward with lawmakers thinking about McCain Overnight Energy: EPA moves to roll back chemical plant safety rule | NASA chief says humans contribute to climate change | Pruitt gets outside lawyer MORE (R-Okla.), who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, said in an interview with The Oklahoman newspaper last week that Rubio is still against Bridenstine's nomination.

"I have talked to Marco — Senator Marco Rubio — and he doesn't like Jim Bridenstine,” Inhofe told the newspaper.

"I talked to him about it and I said, ‘Look, Marco, you were running for president, he was supporting somebody else, your opponent, and he said some things about you that were perfectly legitimate to talk about. You can't just be the one holdout."

Inhofe told The Hill that he himself is still hopeful that Bridenstine's nomination will pass.