Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine might learn this week if he is going to become the new administrator of NASA.
The U.S. is reported to be poised to vote on his second nomination by President Donald Trump. The first failed to make it to the Senate before the end of the congressional session in 2017, prompting President Trump to re-nominate the Republican Representative in January.
On Monday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed a cloture motion on Bridenstine’s nomination, meaning the Senate could vote on the motion as soon as April 18 and it will need only a simple majority to win approval.
Were that to occur, it would set the stage for up to 30 hours of debate on the nomination, meaning a vote on the actual nomination could happen April 19.
As Space News reported this week, the filing of the motion indicates Senate Republicans are confident they have the votes to pass the nomination. Democrats do not support Bridenstine and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has opposed him as well, claiming Bridenstine is too political to run NASA.
Now there is speculation that perhaps Rubio has dropped his opposition and that one or more Democrats could be willing to support the former Navy pilot.
The Senate Commerce Committee reported Bridenstine’s nomination to the full Senate in January. In March, 61 members of the House sent a letter to Senate leadership urging his confirmation. They were led by space subcommittee chairman Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) and at least a dozen Democrats signed the letter.
While Rep. Bridenstine has his opponents on Capitol Hill because of his outspokenness on politics, he has supporters in the space community because of his space policy expertise. He has also been a proponent of further space exploration and introduced the American Space Renaissance Act two years ago.
Ever since his nomination last fall and again this year, the congressman has maintained a low profile. He has also not voted on many issues in order to avoid political alienation.
Bridenstine attended the 34th Space Symposium this week but did not speak. However, his presence was observed by Vice President Mike Pence during his speech honoring Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator who is retiring.
“And we’re hopeful very soon that those big shoes will be filled and that the Senate will confirm a man who also joins us here today, a great champion of the men and women at NASA and a great champion of the president’s vision for NASA and for American leadership in space,” Pence said, thanking Bridenstine for “for stepping forward to serve our nation at such a time as this.”