Jim Bridenstine

There’s Some WTF in This Lame Duck Session of Congress
Appointed, maybe and not-yet, maybe-never members dot the Capitol

Members-elect from the 116th Congress pose for the freshman class photo on the East Front of the Capitol on November 14, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Every lame duck session of Congress is special in its own way, and the current one, operating alongside the orientation session for newly elected members of Congress, has its share of oddities and weirdness. 

Speaker Paul D. Ryan swore in new members of the House on Tuesday, those who won special elections to fill out unexpired terms, Joseph D. Morelle, D-N.Y., and Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa. Oh, and also an “appointed” member, Republican Kevin Hern of Oklahoma.  

Justice Department Issues Indictment for 2013 Congressional Trip to Azerbaijan
Feds allege nonprofit concealed that trip was funded by foreign government

A 2013 congressional delegation trip to Azerbaijan has resulted in an indictment being handed down to the head of the nonprofit, whom the government alleges concealed the source of funding for the journey. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Justice Department has issued an indictment of former non-profit head Kevin Oksuz for his role in a plot to hide the fact that a 2013 congressional delegation trip to Azerbaijan was funded by that country’s government.

According to the indictment, which was unsealed Monday, Kevin, also known as Kemal, Oksuz allegedly lied on disclosure forms filed with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics prior to, and following, a privately sponsored congressional trip to Azerbaijan. Oksuz ran a Houston based nonprofit that he is accused of using to funnel money to fund the congressional trip from an oil company controlled by the Azerbaijan government.

Something Old, Something New, Someone Appointed, Neither Blue
Republicans Jon Kyl and Troy Balderson sworn in on Wednesday

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., left, conducts a ceremonial swearing-in for Rep. Troy Balderson, R-Ohio, second from right, before being sworn in on the House floor Wednesday Sept. 5, 2018. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Congress grew by two Republicans on Wednesday when Jon Kyl was sworn on the Senate side and Troy Balderson over in the House. 

Shortly after the Senate convened at noon and voted to confirm Elad Roisman to be a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Vice President Mike Pence swore in Kyl, a former Senate minority whip who retired in 2013 but was appointed on Tuesday to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Oklahoma Republicans Pick Likely Successor to Bridenstine
Kevin Hern won the GOP primary runoff in the open 1st District

Former GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine is now the NASA administrator. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Businessman Kevin Hern won the Republican primary runoff in Oklahoma’s 1st District on Tuesday, and is likely heading to Congress next year from the safe GOP seat.

The Tulsa-anchored seat opened after GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine resigned in April to become NASA administrator.

What to Watch in Tuesday’s Primaries
Voters go to the polls in Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma

GOP Rep. Martha McSally is facing two other Republicans for the GOP nomination for Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Voters in three states — Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma — head to the polls Tuesday in some of this year’s latest nominating contests, including a critical Senate race and about half a dozen open-seat primaries.

Arizona hosts the most high-profile race with Republicans choosing their nominee for the open Senate seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake

As Trump Looks to Outer Space, Senate Dems Put In a Word for Earth
They were there to hear about NASA’s ‘search for life,’ but Democrats wanted to talk about climate change

Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee Chairman Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and ranking member Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., revealed differing visions for NASA’s science mission at a Wednesday hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump may be known for flip-flopping on issues, but he hasn’t backed away from his lofty goals in outer space. His push for a military “space force” and boots on the Red Planet has some in Congress trying to bring him back to Earth.

As senators heard Wednesday about NASA’s “search for life” in the galaxy, some Democrats wanted to talk about climate change.

Photos of the Week: House Recess Begins — But See You Monday, Senate
The week of July 23 as captured by Roll Call’s photographers

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks at the Summer Intern Lecture Series in the Capitol Visitor Center auditorium on Wednesday. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

The House has dashed out of town for its annual five-week summer recess, with plenty of work left on the table for when members return Sept. 4.

Of course, the Senate plans to be in session for four out of the five coming weeks thanks to a plan from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to chip away at backlogged legislative and executive business (with the side benefit of preventing Senate Democrats in tough races from going home to campaign.)

The President’s Mission to Mars Is a Real Long Shot
Trump really wants to go to Mars, but he’ll have to convince Congress, private companies and scores of scientists

President Donald Trump receives a flight jacket from NASA officials during a bill signing ceremony last year. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

For a man known for grandiose ambitions, perhaps President Donald Trump’s most lofty is his pledge, formalized in a December order, to land a human being on the surface of Mars.

It would be easy to doubt Trump’s seriousness, given that he’s equally known for inconsistent follow-through. But Trump has raised the idea repeatedly since that order, most recently last month before the National Space Council, the advisory group Trump revived last year and tasked Vice President Mike Pence with running.

Q&A: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
‘What we don’t know about the moon is critical’ and could change ‘the balance of power on Earth’

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is interviewed for the “CQ on Congress” podcast on June 28. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate confirmed Jim Bridenstine to lead NASA in April after months of delay related to Democrats’ concerns about his commitment to the agency’s climate research and Republican infighting over its resources.

During two terms in the House, and the start of a third, Bridenstine was a space enthusiast. He served on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and drafted an ambitious bill to overhaul the way the government manages its space resources.

Trump Taps Senate’s Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms for NASA Post
Morhard to be nominated to be deputy administrator of the space agency

Deputy Senate Sergeant at Arms James W. Morhard is interviewed by Roll Call in the Capitol, January 9, 2015. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The deputy sergeant-at-arms of the Senate has been picked by President Donald Trump to be the deputy administrator of NASA.

James W. Morhard, who has been deputy SAA since Republicans took over the Senate majority in 2015, has largely focused on the various administrative functions of the Senate.