Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson took another swing Wednesday morning at the nomination of Oklahoma Republican U.S. Rep. James Bridenstine‘s appointment as the next NASA administrator, calling him partisan and unqualified.
During a 16-minute speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Nelson suggested that Bridenstine could be dangerous overseeing NASA missions that had previously ended in tragedy when higher-ups dismissed scientific and engineering warnings about potential problems.
Bridenstine, a three-term Republican, is a former U.S. Navy pilot, and a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium.
But Nelson said that is not enough. After recounting the tragic errors that led to the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, Nelson declared that the space agency is not a place for someone as divisive as he said Bridenstine has been in Congress.
“To make those decisions, the administrator must draw on all of his or her knowledge of engineering principals and of space flight, and all of his experience of managing large technological organizations, and every bit of judgment, reason and impartiality he or she can muster,” Nelson declared.
“Because leading NASA is for an experienced and proven space professional. The success or failure of leadership at NASA is quite literally a matter of life or death,” he added.
It’s not the first time Nelson has gone after Bridenstine’s nomination, not even the first time on the floor of the Senate. He did so back in November, and in the Senate Commerce Committee, which supported the nomination along party lines.
Nelson’s opponent in this year’s election, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, came out in support of Bridenstine Wednesday, tweeting: “I hope Jim Bridenstine gets confirmed. It isn’t helping NASA to have obstructionist Senate Democrats delay the confirmation process. Like me, he served in the Navy and will fight for our space program- not just talk about helping it like so many of the career politicians in DC.”