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A Post-Hearing Status Update on the NASA Adminstrator

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 08:31

Last Wednesday, 1 November, the potential next administrator of NASA, Representative James "Jim" Bridenstine (R-OK), faced the members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in a public hearing (video of full hearing is available online).

We last wrote about Mr. Bridenstine's nomination in September, when he submitted his responses to an initial questionnaire from the Senate Commerce committee. To see what happens next, let's take a look at this outline of the steps in the confirmation process from the Washington Post's piece on presidential appointments:

Representative Bridenstine's nomination is currently in the "Vetting and Hearings" stage. The initial questionnaire was just the preliminary committee vetting; Mr. Bridenstine met with Senators individually in the weeks after the announcement of his nomination, and then he sat for his hearing last week, one of four nominees being considered. The committee will vote whether to advance Mr. Bridenstine's nomination in a separate session; if a majority votes in favor, Mr. Bridenstine must then be considered by the full Senate. Confirmation of presidential appointees requires a majority approval.

In Wednesday's hearing, the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator John Thune (R-SD), gave a prepared introduction to Mr. Bridenstine and the three other nominees under consideration. The Ranking Member (most senior member of the minority party) of the committee, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), followed with his own prepared statement, which primarily focused on Mr. Bridenstine over the other nominees. Mr. Bridenstine made his own opening statement from prepared remarks. As in most Congressional hearings, upon conclusion of all prepared remarks, each member of the committee is, in turn, allotted time for questioning the witnesses; most of the questions were directed at Mr. Bridenstine. Senators submitted further questions (or requests for clarification) in writing to the nominees, Mr. Bridenstine's responses to those further questions are now posted on the committee's website.

Here is a round-up of post-hearing summaries from around the space/science policy world:

Discussion of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) during the hearing primarily focused on the work of the Earth Science division, though Mr. Bridenstine did mention the Europa, Mars2020, James Webb Space Telescope, and Parker Solar Probe missions and the importance of community inputs through the decadal surveys in his opening statement. In questioning, Mr. Bridenstine discussed the priorities of the 2007 Earth Science decadal survey, described the role of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, saying that the climate is warming, that human activity has contributed to that warming, and that human contributution is the primary cause of climate change "in some years," but not in others.

Pending receipt of all of his written responses to follow-up questions from the committee, Mr. Bridenstine's nomination will be voted on in the committee's Executive (business) Session on Wednesday, 8 November.

Ashlee N. Wilkins
John N. Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
American Astronomical Society (AAS)
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