Sturgell Confirmation Hearing Thursday

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Three days after Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell put his stamp of approval on an FAA budget that would retain the user fee proposal, President Bush's nominee for the five-year appointment as administrator will go before a confirmation hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. It's been more than three months since Bush nominated Sturgell to take over from Marion Blakey and this is the first action the Senate has taken toward the necessary confirmation. Sturgell's nomination has been controversial, with most of the established user groups (including NBAA, AOPA, and EAA) willing to work with him, despite his apparently categorical endorsement of user fees. However, there is plenty of opposition to Sturgell's appointment for other reasons. NATCA is vehemently opposed because of Sturgell's participation in the labor situation with air traffic controllers. But the noisiest opposition may come from Senators in the Northeast, who have been lobbied heavily by constituents unhappy with the FAA's ongoing redesign of busy airspace in the region. Bush was prevented from pushing through the nomination during the holiday recess because Senate leaders held brief daily sessions and no official recess was held. Election-year politics could cause further delays, as Senate leaders may be reluctant to confirm a five-year assignment from a lame-duck administration that will be changing in less than a year.