The Orlando Sentinel reports this afternoon that Sen. Bill Nelson and some colleagues have “taken down” the potential nomination of Steve Isakowitz as NASA administrator before the former NASA comptroller could even be formally nominated. Nelson and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison reportedly opposed the proposed nomination because of Isakowitz’s role, as CFO of the Department of Energy, in the decision to cancel the “FutureGen” clean coal demonstration power plant because of serious overruns—only to discover a $500-million overestimate in the cost estimates that led to that cancellation decision. (Another senator, David Vitter, was also originally considered part of the group opposed to Isakowitz, but his office later denied any role in blocking any nomination.)
A couple things to keep in mind here. One, while Isakowitz was designated the frontrunner when his name came up two weeks ago, there was no consensus if that was really the case—or even if he was really being seriously considered by the administration. Second, while the article states that “people close to Nelson” now consider Charles Bolden as “a shoo-in” for the position, it’s clear now that, if true, he would be far from the administration’s first choice, which leads one to wonder about the dynamics of the relationship between Sen. Nelson and the White House. And then there’s Lester Lyles, who apparently has been neither endorsed nor “taken out” yet by Nelson. Lyles spoke at the Goodard Memorial Symposium earlier this week but (according to people I talked with who attended the meeting) avoided any discussion of the NASA job.