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Sat, Jun 16, 2012

Huerta Faces First Senate Confirmation Panel Next Week

Nomination Hearing Scheduled By The Senate Commerce Committee June 21

A look at the calendar for the Senate Commerce Committee has a notation that will be of interest to just about everyone in the aviation community. On June 21, acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will sit before the committee in the first part of the process that could lead to his permanent appointment to the post.

Huerta was named acting administrator following the resignation of Randy Babbitt, who had been accused of driving under the influence. Those charges were later dropped. President Obama appointed Huerta to complete Babbitt's five-year term, and then have a full five-year term of his own.

But Bloomberg News reports that, if history is any president, Huerta may not have a turbulence-free flight to that full term. When former President George W. Bush appointed then-acting administrator Bobby Sturgell to a full term four years ago, the move was blocked by Senate Democrats. Sturgell only served out his time as acting administrator. The FAA chief does not serve strictly at the pleasure of the President, as do most appointees. The terms are for five years, and can transcend an intervening election.

That means if Huerta were to be appointed to a full term, he would be in the post beyond the next election, and could end up serving under a President Mitt Romney.

The two at least know each other. According to his FAA bio, Huerta was managing director of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, which Romney is largely crediting with saving as head of the Olympics organizing committee. But given the current climate in Washington, D.C., it would seem that Huerta's confirmation is certainly not a given in the U.S. Senate.



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