Anthony Foxx, President Obama's choice to lead the Dept. of Transportation, delivered a solid performance during his Senate confirmation hearing, which bodes well for his approval.

In his May 22 appearance before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee,
Foxx confidently handled questions from Democrats and Republicans showing his familiarity with details about the wide range of issues DOT handles, from aviation to highways to rail. (View Webcast of hearing.)

Foxx isn't home free yet. The commerce panel's top Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, said he's waiting for satisfactory responses from letters he and other lawmakers had sent to DOT weeks ago about how it implemented the mandatory sequestration budget cuts. The reductions included furloughs of air traffic controllers, which led to increased flight delays.

Thune told Foxx:  "They're items that in my view...need to be fully answered before I can support your nomination being reported from the committee."

Although the commerce committee doesn't have jurisdiction over highway construction issues—it oversees aviation, trucking and rail as well as highway safety—Fox was asked about plans for the highway-transit authorization bill to succeed MAP-21, which was enacted last July and expires Sept. 30, 2014.

That new bill is the top legislative priority for transportation construction interests and state DOTs, which are particularly concerned about whether the new bill will resolve the long-standing financial woes of the Highway Trust Fund, the prime source of road-building aid.

Foxx said he wanted to be "an active participant" in discussions about the reauthorization. Noting that MAP-21 has been in effect for less than a year, he said the law had a number of positive elements, such as new standards for measuring how highway projects perform.

But he added, "Clearly we need a longer-term surface transportation bill. We need a longer-term answer to the sustainability of our funding sources." He didn't unveil a plan, but as a not-yet-confirmed nominee, no one expected him to outline a funding blueprint.

Other Obama Cabinet nominees have faced much rockier paths than Foxx. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) drew some laughter from the many in the audience when she told Foxx his commerce committee session was "probably one of the more pleasant hearings on the Hill today." That perhaps was a reference to a hearing on how the Internal Revenue Service dealt with conservative Republican groups' tax status.

She asked Foxx about financing methods, including an infrastructure bank, something Obama has proposed multiple times without gaining congressional approval.

Foxx said, "We should be looking both in the box and out of the box at ways to get...infrastructure built." He also said  an infrastructure bank "is a good idea," but also said, "It's not a complete solution to every problem we have." 

Sen. Ted Cruz posted this Youtube video of his questioning of Anthony Foxx, nominated to lead the Dept. of Transportation. 

Freshman senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has become a high-profile GOP figure,  jousted with Foxx about the FAA cuts. Cruz wanted a commitment from Foxx that in implementing future spending reductions he would try "to target ways to trim the fat and tighten the belt while... minimizing unnecessary inconvenience to consumers."

Foxx said he hoped there would be a broad deficit-reduction solution, but if such a plan isn't put in place, he would do his best to "make the best of the situation."

But he added,  "I can not guarantee you that there will be painless choices," saying the sequester "is a bit of a blunt instrument."

Still, despite their different points of view, Cruz said he would support Foxx's nomination.

After Cruz had his turn, committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) delivered a strong pitch for increasing funding for programs like infrastructure, rather than focusing on budget cutting.

Rockefeller, who announced early this year he would be retiring after a long tenure in the Senate, urged Foxx to "push us" and "goad us" to approve additional money the department might need.

Then the chairman brought the nearly two-hour hearing to a close, telling Foxx he was adjourning it "on the presumption that you will just ride the fast rail right into the secretaryship."

The next step would be a committee vote, which has not been scheduled yet.