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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 BridenstineRussian Soyuz rocket failure leaves NASA with no ride to International Space Station US, Russian astronauts rescued after emergency landing NASA looking into selling naming rights for rockets to corporate brands: report MORE (R-Okla.), President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE's pick to head NASA.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers Senate Dems race to save Menendez in deep-blue New Jersey 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 RubioSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' Dems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism 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 InhofeGraham: 'Game changer' if Saudis behind journalist's disappearance GOP senators ask EPA to block states that have 'hijacked' rule to stop fossil fuel production Pentagon releases report on sexual assault risk 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.