“NASA needs leaders who will unite us, not divide us,”
the Florida Democrat says
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee which oversees the nation’s space program, says President Trump’s pick to lead NASA is too “divisive and extreme” to head the nonpartisan agency.
“The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional,” Nelson said during his opening remarks at today’s Commerce Committee hearing to consider Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) nomination to be the next administrator of NASA. “More importantly, the administrator must be a leader who has the ability to unite scientists, engineers, commercial space interests, policymakers, the Congress and the public on a shared vision for future space exploration.”
Nelson, who flew on the space shuttle and is widely viewed as a congressional expert on space matters, said Bridenstine’s past partisan behavior makes him unfit to lead the agency.
“NASA is not political,” Nelson said. “The leader of NASA should not be political. When [NASA] has been partisan in the past, we’ve had disasters.”
Nelson pointed to several highly-partisan comments Bridenstine has made recently criticizing both Democratic and Republican members of Congress for their efforts to work across the political aisle – including a television ad the Oklahoma Republican made attacking Nelson’s Florida colleague, Sen. Marco Rubio, for his efforts to seek bipartisan consensus on immigration.
Nelson called Bridenstine’s record and behavior in Congress “as divisive and extreme as any in Washington.”
“Congressman,” Nelson said, “on behalf of every member who has devoted their career to reaching across the aisle to build consensus and to find working solutions for the American people, I want you to know that his senator is quite skeptical and I take offense to that kind of quote – that ‘we need fighters, not people coming together.’ … That line of thinking is why Washington is broken.”
“NASA represents the best of what we can do as a people,” Nelson continued. “NASA is one of the last refuges from partisan politics. And when it has gotten partisan in the past, we have gotten in trouble. NASA needs a leader who will unite us, not divide us. Respectfully, Congressman Bridenstine, I think you’ve got a long way to go to prove to be that leader.”