By Libby Quaid

The nomination of Hector V. Barreto Jr. to head the Small Business Administration won approval Thursday from a Senate committee Thursday, but not without protests over budget cuts sought by President Bush.

''It's a massive reduction in the agency's capacity. You would be presiding over an operation that you would be shutting down,'' said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the Small Business Committee chairman. ''We are going to need you to be an effective advocate.''

Equally critical was Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, the panel's top Republican. Bond blamed career Office of Management and Budget employees for proposing a ''hatchet job'' that would reduce SBA spending from $900 million to $539 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

''All of us are going to have to work together'' to fend off cuts, Bond said.

Barreto, 39, owns an employee benefits firm in Los Angeles and has been influential in promoting Hispanic-owned business. His father founded the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce after years spent running restaurants in Kansas City, Mo.

As the family business grew, ''my parents realized that they were living the American dream,'' said Barreto, who started waiting tables at age nine and became his family's first college graduate.

''They knew that others within the community could achieve their American dream by starting their own small businesses,'' he said.

With his father on hand, the panel approved the nomination on a 19-0 vote even before Barreto addressed the senators.

Kerry said he intends to move the nomination ''as rapidly as we can.''

If confirmed by the full Senate, Barreto would replace former SBA chief Aida Alvarez. The Clinton appointee has been the target of GOP criticism, most recently for her travel habits.