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Friday, May 29th, 2020Last Update: Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 02:21:47 PM

Bridenstine Renominated to Head NASA

By: Constitution Staff

On January 8, the White House resubmitted the nomination of Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine to be the next National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) administrator. Bridenstine’s nomination was returned to the White House after the nomination failed to complete the process before the first session of the115th Congress concluded in December. Under Senate rules, pending presidential nominations can remain at the Senate at the end of the first session with unanimous consent of all members of the Senate. Since Bridenstine’s nomination was expected to be opposed by several Senators, the White House decided to resubmit for the second session.

In the first session, the nomination was advanced by the Senate the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee in a party-line vote of 14-13. The resubmitted nomination does not require another confirmation hearing. On January 18, the committee again approved Bridenstines for the second time by the same 14-13 margin. The nomination now proceeds to the full Senate for consideration.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, a member of the Senate committee, praised the committee passage of Bridenstine: “While I am disappointed that unprecedented obstruction from Senate Democrats required the President to renominate many of his well-qualified nominees, I am pleased the Commerce Committee advanced – for the second time – the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine to serve as NASA Administrator. As a former military aviator and former administrator of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium, Bridenstine has a lifelong passion for space and a strong record of advancing space policy that will serve him well at NASA. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to confirm him swiftly.”

After Donald Trump was elected President, Bridenstine’s name surfaced for the NASA job. He was elected to Congress in 2012 and serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. In 2016 he introduced the American Space Renaissance Act. When his nomination was announced last September, Bridenstine said, “I am humbled by this opportunity, and I thank President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their confidence. Should I be confirmed by the United States Senate, I will work with all diligence to achieve the President’s vision for America’s leadership in space.”

Bridenstine holds a triple major from Rice University and an M.B.A. from Cornell University. He served as a U.S. Navy pilot and was on active duty for nine years. He began his Naval aviation career piloting the E-2C Hawkeye off the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, flying combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He later transitioned to the F-18 Hornet and flew as an “aggressor” at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. After leaving active duty, he returned to Tulsa to be the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium. He served four years in the Navy Reserve achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander and flew counter-drug missions in Central and South America. In 2015 he joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard.

When he first ran for Congress, Bridenstine pledged that if elected he would only serve three terms. Based on this promise, he would not be a candidate for reelection in 2018. With his pledge to not run again, and the prospect of the NASA job, five Republicans have already announced their intention to succeed Bridenstine in Congress.

If Bridenstine had been confirmed last year, there would have been a special election to fill the vacant seat. State law provides for a special election when a vacancy occurs in a year that a regular election for the position would not otherwise be held. If he is soon confirmed and vacates his seat, his replacement will be selected in the regular 2018 elections.

The five Republicans who have announced for the seat are state Sen. Nathan Dahm of Broken Arrow; former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris; pastor Danny Stockstill who is the lead pastor at Brookside Baptist Church in Tulsa; businessman Kevin Hern the owner of KTAK Coorporation which owns and operates ten McDonald’s restaurants in the Tulsa area; and Andy Coleman who is the former field director of The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), a Christian nonprofit organization.

While the district is a difficult one for Democrats to win, it has been more than 30 years since a Democrat has held the seat, party leaders are expected to at least field a candidate to make the GOP work to hold the seat. Rex Berry is the lone Democrat to express an interest in running. He previously made two losing races for Tulsa County Sheriff. And, Libertarians who regained status as a recognized political party in 2016, are expected to present a candidate to gain attention for their party.

Bridenstine’s confirmation for the NASA post is not a sure thing, as some have been critical of the appointment saying he has an insufficient scientific background. But, even if Bridenstine is not confirmed, it is expected that he will honor his pledge not to run for another term.

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