The forced resignation of NASA chief Richard Truly on February 12 is widely seen as having weakened the agency at a critical time, just as Congress has begun considering this year's federal budget request. Members of a House space panel expressed dismay at Truly's ouster by the White House, when the agency head appeared February 19 at the year's first NASA budget hearing. Several legislators suggested that the dismissal strengthened the hand of the National Space Council, which is headed by Vice President Dan Quayle.
“It angers me to think that NASA, which has inspired generations of Americans, is being turned into a public relations tool for the rehabilitation of Dan Quayle,” said Norman Y. Mineta (D-Calif.) at the hearing of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Mineta's charge that the White House is using NASA as a “political poker chip” was echoed repeatedly by other legislators during the hearing.