Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) flip-flopped yet again on Wednesday, deciding to support confirmation of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be NASA Administrator after months of criticism of the pick. In a Senate floor speech on Thursday, Rubio claimed that this was because he believes in deference to the president on major nominations.
But throughout the Obama administration, Rubio showed little deference to nominations, voting against confirmation of a host of nominees — even when Obama crossed party lines to nominate Republicans.
Rubio, whose state is home to the Kennedy Space Center and thousands of NASA jobs, objected to Bridenstine’s lack of qualification for the role, saying that the position required a “space professional” rather than a politician. But on Wednesday night, he cast the deciding vote to end debate on his nomination.
He said Thursday that while he was “not enthused” about Donald Trump’s nominee to run the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, “the president should have significant discretion in picking the team.”
“Whether you liked it or not,” Rubio told his colleagues, “millions of Americans last year [sic] voted for the president. He was elected, and he has a right to govern.”
Rubio then said, “My view of it is–and it has been the tradition of the Senate for the entire existence of the republic, is that we give great deference to the President on choosing qualifications.”
“It is my view that, the more important the job, the more discretion the President deserves,” he added, noting his vote to confirm Trump’s first Secretary of State Rex Tillerson despite “reservations about the nomination.”
But while Trump (who received neither a majority nor a plurality of votes in his 2016 campaign, but won thanks to the Electoral College) did indeed get millions of votes, his predecessor Barack Obama did as well (actually winning more popular votes in 2012 than Trump’s 2016 total, as well as a popular majority). And Rubio showed no such difference to Obama.
The many Obama nominees Rubio opposed included:
- Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew (confirmed 71 to 26)
- Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell (confirmed 78-17)
- Secretary of Commerce John Bryson (confirmed 74-26)
- Secretary of Labor Tom Perez (confirmed 54-46)
- Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (confirmed 87-11)
- Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (confirmed 78-16)
- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (a Republican, confirmed 58-41)
- Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken (confirmed 55-38)
- Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson (confirmed on a voice vote)
- Federal Reserve Board of Governors Member Jerome Powell (a Republican confirmed 74-21)