President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) withdrew from consideration Saturday after tepid support from the closely divided Senate made his confirmation uncertain.
Phillip Washington, CEO of the Denver International Airport, was nominated by Biden to fill the vacant post in July 2022 and renominated in January after the last Congress failed to act on the appointment. Republican senators grilled Washington at a hearing March 1 over the fact that he had no aviation experience prior to his hire in Denver in 2021.
“This, quite simply, is a position he is not qualified for,” Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said at the time.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who backed Washington’s nomination throughout the process, confirmed Saturday that Washington was withdrawing his nomination.
“The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation & military experience made him an excellent nominee,” Buttigieg wrote on Twitter. “The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved, but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service.”
Though Democrats maintain narrow control of the Senate, some moderate members had shown skepticism toward Biden’s pick. Independent Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who caucuses with the Democrats, was stonewalling the nomination process and may have voted against Washington’s appointment, a source familiar told The Associated Press.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana also declined to publicly throw his support behind Washington, the AP reported.
The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation & military experience made him an excellent nominee. The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved, but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service.
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) March 26, 2023
Washington is also under scrutiny for an ongoing corruption investigation involving his previous position as CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or LA Metro, the governing body for local public transportation.
“I … have serious concerns regarding outstanding allegations of misconduct going back to Mr. Washington’s time at LA Metro,” Cruz said on March 1. “He was named in multiple search warrants in an ongoing criminal public corruption investigation and was the subject of multiple whistleblower complaints.”
The FAA has been without a full-time leader since March 2022. Since then, American airports have been plagued with mishaps including the widespread cancellation of Southwest Airlines flights over the Christmas holiday season and the collision or near-collision of several planes.
Earlier this month, beleaguered Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn withdrew her nomination for the post, and Biden’s pick for ambassador to India, former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, faced significant uncertainty before narrowly advancing through the Senate on March 15.
Washington, contacted through the Denver International Airport, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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- Yet another Biden pick withdraws nomination - March 26, 2023
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