Senate committee clears Obama nominee for FAA chief

Huerta served as assistant FAA administrator under Babbitt, but he did not come to the agency with an aviation background like his predecessor, who was a former pilot.

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, where he worked under presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Airports Council International-North America President Greg Principato applauded the committee for approving Huerta's nomination.

“The national aviation system is a key driver for the US economy," Principato said in a statement. "Given the challenging fiscal times facing our country and our industry, we need a full time administrator who can dedicate the next five years to working with all the stakeholders to create a national aviation policy that will ensure we remain both an economic engine for the country and be globally competitive well into the 21st century.”

The Commerce Committee had begun considering Huerta's nomination last month, but the hearing was postponed by voting that was taking place on the floor of the Senate.

The nomination goes now to the full Senate, though Republicans in the chamber could try to hold up a confirmation vote until after the election to allow Romney to make an FAA appointment of his own if he wins in November.

—This post was updated with new information at 4:52 p.m.