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.
Jim Bridenstine, a congressman from Oklahoma, US Navy veteran and former pilot, was confirmed on a 50-49 vote, and will become the 13th administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration seven months after Trump named him to lead the agency. Flake had assured the White House last week that he was a yes vote for Bridenstine's confirmation, so when he voted no on cloture - ending debate ahead of the vote - it took the White House by surprise, according to the person, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations. A career NASA civil servant, Lightfoot has been serving as Acting Administrator since the Trump Administration began in January 2017. "Nothing personal against Mr. Bridenstine", he said. "NASA needs to be led by a space professional". Flake, a vocal critic of the President's, had been the only Republican to vote against Bridenstine. They argued NASA needed a "space professional" at its helm, "not a politician".
"There's no way NASA can go two years and X number of months without a permanent administrator".
"When you have some leverage when it's a close vote, every senator does that from time to time", Flake told reporters.
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Immediately after the vote, Bridenstine issued a statement expressing his appreciation.
"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", Nelson said in a speech to the Senate on Wednesday.
Bridenstine is a former naval aviator who ran the Tulsa Air and Space Museum before coming to Congress in 2013.
Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence praised Bridenstine as a "a great champion of the men and women at NASA and a great champion of the president's vision for NASA, and for American leadership in space". Jim now takes the reins of this agency and its talented and dedicated workforce. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, said Bridenstine is the right man to lead US plans in space and make sure the first astronaut to reach Mars will be an American. "As chairman of the Science Committee, which has jurisdiction over NASA, I look forward to working with Administrator Bridenstine to maintain America's leadership in space". However, Nelson said before the vote that if Bridenstine was, in fact, confirmed, he would work with him "for the good of our nation's space program".
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