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TribBlog: Border Hostages

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is pushing hard for the FAA to approve a second aerial drone to surveil the Texas-Mexico border — holding an Obama nominee hostage until Texas gets its way.

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Just how serious is Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, about bringing unmanned aerial drones to the Texas-Mexico border? Ask Michael Huerta.

Huerta was nominated to the post of Deputy Administrator to the Federal Aviation Administration by President Barack Obama last year, and sailed through the Senate’s committee hearing process. But that’s as far as he’s gone, thanks in part to Cornyn’s recent displeasure with the FAA.

Cornyn, along with Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and a host of Democratic Congressmen, urged for months that the FAA issue a certification of authorization and clear a flight path for an unmanned areal drone to patrol Texas’ border with Mexico.

The threat of spillover violence is too great, they argued, to not have unmanned surveillance watching over the state's border with Mexico.

The green light was finally given for test runs to begin next month. But Cornyn wants another drone, and stands poised to hold Huerta’s confirmation until Texas gets its way.

Cornyn met with FAA administrator Bruce Babbitt on Thursday and released a terse statement afterward. “My message is clear and simple: the Obama Administration must make this a priority. Until they do, I will continue to use all means at my disposal to protect our Texas border communities,” he said.

Huerta was one of almost 100 nominees awaiting final confirmation earlier this month, according to a White House blog published two weeks ago.

“To put this in perspective, at this point in George W. Bush's presidency, there were just six nominees on the Senate Calendar. We have 96 waiting for a final confirmation vote, including nominees to fill critical positions at the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the National Transportation Safety Board, and dozens of judges at the district court and appellate court level,” reported White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.

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