by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
President Obama’s nomination of interim Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta to a full term is being blocked in the Senate by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).
Obama nominated Huerta to a full five-year term atop the national aviation agency earlier this year after he took over last year for former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
Huerta’s nomination was approved on Tuesday by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
But a spokesman for DeMint said Wednesday that the outspoken South Carolina senator was blocking a quick vote of the full Senate on Huerta’s nomination because the FAA administrator’s tenure would last throughout presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s first term if he wins in November.
“Sen. DeMint will ask for a full debate and vote on this nominee as he has strong concerns about FAA’s labor policies,” DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said in a statement provided to The Hill.
“Additionally, it would be unusual to confirm a high-level nominee to a five-year term so close to the end of a presidential term,” Denton continued.
A spokesman for the Senate Commerce Committee, Vincent Morris, slammed DeMint for placing the hold on Huerta’s nomination.
“There was never a good reason to block Mr. Huerta and it’s a shame that he and the FAA are being hung out to dry for no good reason,” Morris said in a statement provided to The Hill on Wednesday afternoon.
Huerta has been serving as interim FAA administrator since Babbitt resigned in December 2011 followed a drunken-driving arrest.
The charges against Babbitt were later dropped. Obama tapped Huerta for a full five-year term in March.
Prior to being appointed to the FAA in 2010, Huerta worked at a technology company called Affiliated Computer Services. He served as commissioner of New York City’s Department of Ports, International Trade and Commerce in the 1980s and was executive director of the Port of San Francisco from 1989 to 1993.
Huerta also served in the Transportation Department under former President Clinton and was managing director of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, which were famously managed by Romney.