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 BridenstineWhy Voyager 2's discoveries from interstellar space have scientists excited NASA planned expedition to orbit Pluto won't settle whether it's a planet NASA Administrator: 'I believe Pluto is a planet' MORE (R-Okla.), President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE's pick to head NASA.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days The case for censuring, and not impeaching, Donald Trump MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP 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 RubioRubio places hold on number-two Interior nominee over offshore drilling Rubio on Chris Pratt water bottle story: 'I too was caught with a single use plastic water bottle' House votes to sanction Chinese officials over treatment of Uighurs 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 InhofeOvernight Defense: Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East | Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East Pentagon official: 'Possible' more US troops could be deployed to Middle East 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.