Biden nominee to lead FAA withdraws amid GOP criticism
Phillip Washington, President Biden’s pick to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has withdrawn his nomination amid criticism from Senate Republicans.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg cited “undeserved” attacks in confirming Washington’s withdrawal.
“The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation & military experience made him an excellent nominee,” Buttigieg said in a tweet late Saturday. “The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved, but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service.”
Republicans had argued Washington, who has served the CEO of Denver International Airport for less than two years, was unqualified to lead the FAA because of limited aviation experience. Washington also ran transit agencies in Denver and Los Angeles.
“Given the significant challenges facing the FAA, this wasn’t the time for an administrator who needed on-the-job training,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a leading Washington critic, said in a statement Saturday night.
“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,” Cruz added.
Biden even faced uncertainty from a small number of Democrats on Washington’s confirmation, including Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mon.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who used to be a Democrat, not indicating how they would vote.
The FAA has been without a Senate-confirmed administrator for two years. Billy Nolen, a pilot who has held safety jobs at three airlines and the FAA, is serving as its acting administrator.
Washington’s withdrawal comes as federal transportation officials have come under sharp scrutiny over a string of close calls between passenger jets this year. There have been seven confirmed close calls this year, with Buttigieg saying U.S. airports were on track for over 20 of them in 2023.
“Initial information suggests that more mistakes than usual are happening across the system, on runways, at gates while planes are pushing back, in control towers, and on flight decks,” Buttigieg said at a FAA safety summit earlier this month. The close calls have occurred in New York, Texas, Hawaii, Florida, California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.
–The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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