In a party-line vote, the U.S. Senate today confirmed Jim Bridenstine, who has a record of anti-LGBT stances and climate change denial, to be the administrator of NASA.
All 50 Republicans present voted to confirm Bridenstine, a GOP congressman from Oklahoma, to head the space agency, while the Senate’s 47 Democrats and two independents voted against doing so. One Republican, John McCain of Arizona, was absent due to illness. Two Republicans who had voiced doubts about Bridenstine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, decided to vote for confirmation, HuffPost reports.
Florida’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, spoke out against Bridenstine on the Senate floor Wednesday, The New York Times reports. “I think what’s not right for NASA is an administrator who is politically divisive and who is not prepared to be the last in line to make that fateful decision on ‘go’ or ‘no go’ for launch,” he said. Bridenstine “has no experience running a large government bureaucracy,” the Times notes, and will be the first elected official to hold the position.
In his three terms in the U.S. House, Bridenstine has earned a solid string of zeroes on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard. He has spoken out against marriage equality, opposed opening the Boy Scouts to gay members, and denounced the Obama administration’s guidelines on equal treatment of transgender students.
He cosponsored a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and a proposal to impeach Eric Holder, President Obama’s first attorney general, in part because Holder had ceased defending the Defense of Marriage Act. The 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down most of DOMA was “contrary to millennia of human experience,” he said at the time.
He also has a history of climate change denial, once claiming Obama should apologize for government spending on the matter. He has backpedaled somewhat on this, and in his confirmation hearing said he believed human activity was a contributing factor in climate change, although he declined to say it was a primary cause, the Times reports. He said he would support NASA research into extreme weather conditions.
Donald Trump nominated Bridenstine as NASA administrator in September and renominated him in January after the Senate failed to vote on his appointment. Bridenstine replaces Robert Lightfoot Jr., who was acting administrator since Charles Bolden Jr. resigned in January.
LGBT groups had opposed Bridenstine and denounced the confirmation vote. “President Trump’s nod to Jim Bridenstine as NASA’s next leader is yet another attack by this administration on LGBTQ people,” said Zeke Stokes, vice president of programs at GLAAD, in a press release. “It’s time for the Senate to take a hard look at the nominations they are confirming and the potential ramifications these anti-LGBTQ politicians stand to have on the LGBTQ employees in their agencies and within our country as a whole. Midterm elections are around the corner, and our community has a very good memory.”