Trump's NASA nominee is confirmed after Senate drama

It was another dramatic hour -- and history was made -- in the Senate on Thursday.The lawmakers narrowly confi...

Posted: Apr 20, 2018 6:07 AM
Updated: Apr 20, 2018 6:07 AM

It was another dramatic hour -- and history was made -- in the Senate on Thursday.

The lawmakers narrowly confirmed Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be the next NASA administrator after Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, who held his vote back for several minutes while he huddled with GOP leaders on the floor, finally voted yes.

The vote was 50-49. Republicans control 51 seats in the chamber, but Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain has been in Arizona recovering from cancer treatment, meaning that there were 99 senators voting. While Vice President Mike Pence has the ability to break a tie, he wouldn't have been able to overrule Flake's would-be no vote in this instance.

Democrats strongly oppose Bridenstine, President Donald Trump's nominee to head the space agency, who they believe is not a "space professional," in the words of Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Democrats also complained about his views on climate change.

"NASA is one of the few remaining areas that has largely avoided the bitter partisanship that has invaded far too many areas of government and our society today," Nelson said in a floor speech.

Flake initially voted against Bridenstine Wednesday on a procedural vote but then switched to yes after securing a meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who has a confirmation vote next week to become secretary of state.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican and the No. 2 GOP leader, explained that the Flake had wanted a meeting with Pompeo about an unrelated issue -- travel restrictions to Cuba, an issue Flake has championed for years.

In another historic twist, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat who gave birth to a baby girl 10 days ago, returned to the chamber for the first time since leaving on unofficial maternity leave. One day before, the tradition-bound Senate changed its rules to allow newborn babies onto the floor.

Duckworth, a disabled veteran, arrived with her newborn Maile on her lap, as she came to the floor in a wheelchair. They were met with applause and doting senators, including leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, who swarmed around them.

During the vote, it was clear Republican leadership wasn't sure if the nominee would get the votes needed to be confirmed. McConnell and Cornyn were seen looking concerned by the desk where the votes are tallied in the Senate chamber.

At one point, Flake walked into the Senate chamber, didn't speak to any of his colleagues, and then walked out after a few minutes without smiling, before finally voting.

He did, however, linger after his vote to see Duckworth's newborn baby.

Shortly before the Thursday vote, Flake wouldn't say whether his issues had been resolved, leaving a question mark about Bridenstine's fate as the vote got underway.

When walking with a group of senators after he cast his vote, Flake didn't elaborate on why he made his decision, but said that occasionally when you have leverage on a tight vote, you use it.

"When you have some leverage when it's a close vote, every senator does that from time to time," Flake told reporters.

He said he spoke to Pence for a bit when he disappeared off the floor but he wouldn't say what it was about or what Pence wanted. Pence's motorcade rolled to Capitol Hill in case he needed to break a tie, unlikely scenario given the odd number of senators who were voting, though it was not clear whether Duckworth would vote until Thursday afternoon.

While Flake used his vote as leverage on Cuba, he also said he was not "enthusiastic" about Bridenstine to lead NASA.

Another Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, had previously expressed concerns about Bridenstine but voted for him in the end.

In a floor speech Thursday, Rubio explained he thought Trump deserved to have the people he wants in top government posts.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26273

Reported Deaths: 1126
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8867641
Ramsey3252140
Stearns205014
Nobles15625
Anoka148878
Dakota141464
Washington68034
Olmsted67211
Kandiyohi5111
Rice4833
Scott4602
Clay44129
Mower4062
Wright3392
Todd3361
Sherburne2482
Carver2322
Benton1823
Steele1670
Blue Earth1480
Freeborn1420
Martin1325
St. Louis11814
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Lyon811
Winona8015
Cottonwood790
Watonwan780
Crow Wing774
Unassigned7511
Carlton750
Otter Tail730
Goodhue715
Chisago641
Polk612
Itasca5610
Dodge530
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur461
Meeker460
Douglas450
Becker430
Jackson420
Murray400
McLeod390
Isanti360
Waseca270
Pennington230
Rock230
Mille Lacs231
Faribault200
Swift190
Beltrami180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Sibley160
Brown162
Norman150
Pipestone120
Marshall120
Kanabec121
Wilkin113
Cass112
Aitkin110
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Big Stone80
Redwood70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Yellow Medicine60
Grant40
Traverse40
Red Lake40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Roseau30
Hubbard30
Houston20
Kittson10
Lake10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20767

Reported Deaths: 583
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4541137
Woodbury283737
Black Hawk177548
Buena Vista9971
Linn97179
Dallas94025
Marshall91218
Wapello62814
Johnson6189
Muscatine56541
Crawford5472
Tama41029
Scott38010
Dubuque35521
Louisa34911
Pottawattamie31110
Sioux2980
Jasper26917
Wright2120
Washington1958
Warren1661
Plymouth1462
Story1261
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9912
Poweshiek928
Henry722
Bremer706
Boone700
Des Moines671
Clarke660
Clinton651
Taylor640
Webster621
Hamilton610
Guthrie543
Cedar491
Benton431
Monroe415
Shelby370
Cherokee370
Jones370
Jefferson350
Marion350
Osceola340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Iowa330
Dickinson330
Buchanan330
Madison292
Lee290
Fayette280
Sac280
Davis280
Harrison260
Monona250
Clay250
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Emmet240
Lucas222
Hardin210
Grundy200
Mills200
Delaware191
Humboldt191
Floyd191
Franklin170
Appanoose173
Hancock160
Butler161
Ida150
Greene150
Pocahontas150
Page140
Kossuth140
Keokuk140
Audubon131
Jackson130
Carroll130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Cass120
Winnebago110
Montgomery91
Adair90
Union90
Van Buren90
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Calhoun60
Ringgold40
Mitchell40
Fremont40
Worth30
Wayne10
Decatur10
Unassigned00
Rochester
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 69°
Mason City
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 71°
Albert Lea
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Austin
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 72°
Charles City
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Another round of severe weather tonight
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Pandemic food benefits available to families

Image

Sean Weather 6/5

Image

Covid-19 Cases on the Rise

Image

Becoming a better ally

Image

Giving your best

Image

Coronavirus attacking your blood vessels?

Image

Young Protester's impact on police reform

Image

How important are school resource officers?

Image

Graffiti on Rochester trail

Image

Expedited breast cancer treatment

Community Events