President Bush's nominees to lead the Federal Highway Administration and fill two top Environmental Protection Agency positions have advanced in the Senate, but the path to confirmation isn't clear yet for at least two of the three officials.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on April 26 approved J. Richard Capka, Bush's pick to be FHWA administrator, as well as William Wehrum, his choice to head EPA's office of air and radiation, and James Gulliford, the nominee to be EPA assistant administrator for prevention, pesticides and toxic substances.

Capka's nomination still faces "hold" by Kerry.
(Photo courtesy of Federal Highway Administration)

Capka was approved on a voice vote, but with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) opposed. The panel also cleared Gulliford on a voice vote, but with Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Barbara Boxer (C-Calif.) abstaining.
Wehrum was approved, but on a narrow 10-8 vote.

Capka came to FHWA as deputy administrator in 2002 from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, where he was CEO, overseeing the latter phases of the Boston Central Artery-Tunnel project--the "Big Dig." He has been FHWA's acting administration for most of the period since last July, when Mary Peters left as the agency's chief.

Besides opposition from Baucus, Capka still faces a "hold" from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), says Kerry spokesperson April Boyd. She says Kerry will be meeting with Capka "in the next few weeks to discuss [Kerry's] concerns and get answers in person." She adds, "Senator Kerry and others in Massachusetts have raised questions [about] Mr. Capka's role at the Big Dig" in Boston.

Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) supported all three nominees. He praised Capka as "a very good choice to head the FHWA," citing his long career with the Army Corps of Engineers, from which he retired as a brigadier general. Inhofe also said that Wehrum's "record...stands up to any non-partisan scrutiny."