Sen. Bill Nelson on Wednesday blasted Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine, President Donald Trump's nominee to run NASA, as unqualified for the job, too partisan and out of step on climate change.
"The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional who is technically and scientifically competent and a skilled executive," Nelson said at Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing.
"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 had previously raised concerns about Bridenstine's qualifications, as has Sen. Marco Rubio, who drew attacks from Bridenstine in the presidential primary over immigration.
Nelson said Bridenstine's past serve as a Navy aviator is "certainly commendable" but "it doesn't make you qualified to make the complex and nuanced engineering, safety and budgetary decisions for which the head of NASA must be accountable."
He specifically cited Bridenstine's views on climate change, though the nominee on Wednesday said his views have changed and that he doesn't deny the effects. Still, he said man's contribution needs more study.
He also said he would keep NASA "apolitical" and that he had worked across the aisle on space-related issues. Nelson had pointed out Bridenstine's partisan comments, including scoffing how Republicans had worked with Democrats.
But Nelson urged the committee to deny the nominee.
"NASA needs a leader who will unite us, not divide us," Nelson said. "Respectfully, congressman Bridenstine, I don't think you're that leader."