Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson Wednesday trashed President Donald Trump‘s nomination of Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine as the next NASA administrator.

Nelson, the ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee and a former space shuttle astronaut himself, called Bridenstine divisively partisan and extreme, and scientifically unqualified to be leader of America’s space agency.

Nelson’s comments came during a Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday. He argued that NASA’s missions and the safety of its astronauts make it is an agency that must not have a partisan leader or someone who lacks the scientific and technology backgrounds. Nelson charged that NASA’s past disasters have come when leadership was partisan and not up to the task.

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.

“The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional,” Nelson said. “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 said his “greatest concern” regarded Bridenstine’s record of comments, which Nelson declared was, “divisive and it has been as extreme as any we have seen,” including harsh comments about former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former House Speaker John Boehner, Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Arizona Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, bipartisan efforts in general, and positions on climate change, gay rights, and immigration.

“NASA represents the best of what we can do with the people, and NASA is one of the last refuges of non-partisan politics and when it has gotten partisan in the past, we’ve gotten into trouble. NASA needs a leader who will unite us, not divide us,” Nelson said.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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