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AUDIO: Bridenstine Confirmed as Next NASA Administrator

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Bridenstine's office
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Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine is confirmed as the next NASA administrator.

Senate Republicans pushed Bridenstine’s nomination to a vote today, which ended 50–49 with the help of some in the party who previously opposed Bridenstine. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot announcing he would retire at the end of the month helped sway him to vote for Bridenstine.

"There’s no way NASA can go two years and X number of months without a permanent administrator. And so, you make these decisions always under the context that a president should have significant discretion in picking the team," Rubio said.

The vote fell along party lines after Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake switched his vote, with Democrats maintaining Bridenstine doesn’t have the qualifications to lead NASA. Michigan Sen. Gary Peters said Bridenstine’s nomination reflects a deeper problem with the Trump administration: a disrespect of science.

"Of the 43 nominations the administration has actually made to science-related positions, almost 60 percent do not have advanced degrees in science or health-related fields," Peters said. "A White House that does not respect science will hold our nation back."

President Donald Trump originally nominated Bridenstine in September. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe said Bridenstine went through a tough confirmation hearing last year, with Democrats calling the former Navy fighter pilot divisive and pressing him on losses while running the Tulsa Air and Space Musuem.

"I’ve never seen a smear campaign like that. It just — I’ve never seen that much hatred, and for no reason at all," Inhofe said.

Trump had to resubmit Bridenstine's nomination after it was returned to the White House at the end of 2017. Bridenstine joins EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt as Oklahomans with significant positions in Trump's administration.