Denver International Airport CEO Phillip Washington, President Joe Biden’s candidate to lead the FAA, withdrew his nomination, dealing a blow to the government as it became clear that he did not have the support of a majority of senators.
“Unfortunately, an onslaught of unfounded Republican attacks on Mr. Washington’s service and experience irresponsibly delayed this process, threatened unnecessary procedural hurdles on the Senate floor, and ultimately have led him to withdraw his nomination today,” a White House official said Saturday night.
“Despite Senate Republicans’ months-long, relentless campaign to sink the nomination of a qualified military veteran, our Administration believes that service in uniform is an asset.”
Washington withdrew from the race after receiving what Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called “an excellent nominee” Buttigieg confirmed Washington’s departure in a tweet late Saturday.
“The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation & military experience made him an excellent nominee,” Buttigieg tweeted.
“The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved, but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service.”
The Republican Party as a whole opposed Washington, with many pointing to his lack of aviation expertise as proof that he was unfit for the job. There was still a chance that Democrats and allied independents could have pushed the nominee through, but some important senators refused to back Mr. Biden’s decision.
Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell of Washington abruptly postponed a vote on Washington’s nomination last Wednesday, signaling that she did not have the votes to advance the nomination out of committee. Some senators, she said, were interested in learning more about the nation’s capital.
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Former Democrat and current independent senator from Arizona Kyrsten Sinema and moderate Democrat from Montana Jon Tester both declined to comment on how they would have voted.
According to The Associated Press, a source familiar with the situation said that Sinema was delaying the nomination and had voiced her disapproval. The individual in question was not permitted to speak publicly about the procedure and hence requested anonymity.
The White House will likely want guarantees of support from Sinema, Tester, and other moderates before announcing a new nominee. There has not been an FAA administrator who has been confirmed by the Senate since March of 2022.
Despite an increase in near-misses this year, the government is trying to reassure the public that air travel is risk-free. Another issue is the aged technology that caused nationwide flight cancellations in January. After clearing Boeing jets that later crashed in 2018 and 2019, it is still working to restore its credibility.
“The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation & military experience made him an excellent nominee,” Buttigieg tweeted Saturday night. “The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved, but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service.”
Washington has expertise managing public transportation systems, having led agencies in both Denver and Los Angeles, but his only relevant aviation experience is a brief stint as CEO of the Denver airport. Yet he has close ties to the administration: he was in charge of Mr. Biden’s Transportation Department (which includes the FAA) transition team in 2020.
Mr. Biden nominated Washington in July 2022, but it took eight months before he was given a committee hearing. Conservatives slammed his resume and jumped on news that his name was on search warrants for a Los Angeles corruption probe.
Washington insisted he hadn’t broken the law and that the authorities hadn’t tried to get in touch with him. Billy Nolen, a pilot with experience in safety roles at three airlines and the FAA, is serving as interim administrator.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a leader of the opposition to Washington, has claimed that Nolen has a chance of receiving support from both parties. Cruz made the claim that Washington lacked the essential experience in a statement released late on Saturday.
“Given the significant challenges facing the FAA, this wasn’t the time for an administrator who needed on-the-job training,” he said.
“The Biden administration must now quickly name someone to head the FAA who has an extensive aviation background, can earn widespread bipartisan support in the Senate, and will keep the flying public safe.”
Every article listed above is taken from CBS News.com.
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