Congress In Conflict Over Confirming FAA Administrator

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The confirmation of Acting FAA Administrator Robert "Bobby" Sturgell, who seemed like a shoo-in when President Bush nominated him in October to take on the administrator job for the next five years, now is encountering political turbulence. Powerful members of Congress from the Northeast are saying they will oppose the appointment unless Sturgell agrees to revisit plans for the ongoing redesign of the region's congested airspace. The nomination was scheduled for review last week but now has been postponed until after the Congressional recess. Committee spokesmen denied any political motive to the postponement, saying they simply ran out of time. Former Administrator Marion Blakey, now president of the Aerospace Industries Association, expressed concern over the delay. "It is critical for the continued smooth operation of our nation's air transportation system to have a person confirmed and appointed for a five-year term as soon as possible," she said in a statement.

The nomination now won't be considered until late January, at the earliest. Sen. Bob Menendez (D - N.J.) said he may hold up the nomination indefinitely, until he's satisfied with the FAA's repsonse to questions he's raised about the airspace redesign plans.