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 BridenstineAstronauts named for first US manned space mission since end of shuttle program  Make the moon a refueling station — then head to Mars White House nominating new science adviser with extreme-weather background MORE (R-Okla.), President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE's pick to head NASA.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell15 senators miss votes despite McConnell's criticism of absentees Overnight Health Care: Azar defends approach on drug rebates | Trump presses Senate to act quickly on opioid crisis | Kentucky governor's Medicaid lawsuit tossed Dem senator introduces proposal to rein in Trump on security clearances MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWith lives at stake, Congress must start acting on health care To make the House of Representatives work again, make it bigger Reforms can stop members of Congress from using their public office for private gain 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 RubioGOP lawmakers raise concerns over research grants to colleges with Confucius Institutes Paid family leave could give new parents a much-needed lifeline GOP looks to injure Nelson over Russia comments 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 InhofePence announces first steps in establishing 'Space Force' EPA chief: Obama car rule rollback would save consumers 0B EPA’s Wheeler gets warmer welcome at Senate hearing 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.