Senate committee hearings are usually a humdrum formality — not exactly the place you’d expect to find a good dragging. But in 2017, we’re all living in the Upside-Down, so it makes sense that today’s hearing to confirm the NASA’s new administrator began with a complete roast of the nominee everyone assumed was a lock.
Back in September, the White House announced that Representative Jim Bridenstine, a Republican from Oklahoma, would be President Donald Trump’s pick to lead NASA. Since then, it’s been widely assumed that Bridenstine would be confirmed without too much trouble, despite widespread criticism for his past remarks on climate science — namely that he doesn’t accept it.
But at the start of Wednesday’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing, Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and former astronaut, made it abundantly clear this would be no cakewalk for Bridenstine. The senator pulled out all the receipts on the Republican representative’s past and all but explicitly called him unfit for the role.
“Your service to the country is commendable, but does not make you qualified to lead NASA”
“Your service to the country is commendable, but does not make you qualified to lead NASA,” Nelson said, referring to Bridenstine’s military background as a fighter pilot. If confirmed, Bridenstine would be one of the few NASA administrators with no scientific background. Charles Bolden, President Obama’s NASA Administrator, served as an astronaut with the agency for 14 years and earned a Bachelors of Science in electrical science from the University of Southern California before leading the space agency.
It didn’t stop there: Nelson brought attention to some of Bridenstine’s past comments on climate science and alluded to a speech the representative made on the House floor back in 2013, in which he demanded an apology from President Obama for supposedly spending too much money on climate change research.
“Your past statements on climate change are troubling as compared to your more recent statements,” Nelson said. Of course, at today’s hearing, Bridenstine changed his tune about this — but not much, and in literally the most nonsensical way possible.
Throughout the rest of this hearing, Bridenstine will have the opportunity to respond to some of the criticism he’s faced for his views. While Nelson’s speech probably won’t stop him from getting confirmed, it is deeply satisfying to know that some people in congress are willing to put up a fight.
“NASA represents what is good about us,” Nelson told Bridenstine. “You’ve got a long way to go to prove to be that leader.”
You can watch the entire speech in all its glory below: