Senate Approves Federal Highway Administration Nominee Capka

The Senate approved President Bush's nominee to head the Federal Highway Administration after four Democratic senators dropped their opposition to him.

J. Richard Capka was approved by voice vote Friday, just before the Senate left for its Memorial Day recess.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., held up consideration of Capka's appointment because he said the Bush administration wouldn't release money for a transportation project in his state. But Baucus let Capka's appointment go forward after Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta assured him the situation would be worked out, said Baucus spokeswoman Sara Kuban.

New Jersey's two senators, Democrats Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, said they opposed Capka because the Bush administration reneged on a promise to send millions of dollars to their state for six highway projects. Their hold was lifted after FHWA honored its original commitment to the state, Menendez spokesman Allyn Brooks-LaSure said Tuesday.

And Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said he opposed Capka because he questioned his competence. Capka oversaw the $14.6 billion Big Dig construction project in Boston. In a statement, Kerry said he changed his mind after talking to Capka.

Capka, a retired brigadier general with the Army Corps of Engineers, became acting administrator of the Federal Highway Administration last August.