Philip A. Washington speaks at a nominating hearing with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Capitol Hill on March 1, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images News | Getty Images
President Joe Biden’s choice to run the Federal Aviation Administration has withdrawn his nomination. It’s a setback for the administration after Denver International Airport CEO Philip Washington appeared to lack sufficient support in a tightly divided Senate.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg confirmed Washington’s withdrawal in a tweet Saturday night, calling him an “excellent candidate” and condemning the unjust and partisan attack.
Republicans united against Washington, calling him ineligible due to his limited aviation experience. Democrats and allied independents may have still pushed through with the nomination, but key senators on their side were hesitant to back Biden’s choice.
Washington’s fate appeared to be sealed when Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) abruptly canceled a vote scheduled for last Wednesday. She said several senators have asked for more information about Washington.
Sen. Kirsten Cinema of Arizona was a Democrat until she switched to independent in December, but Jon Tester, a moderate Democrat of Montana, has revealed how they voted. declined. The person was not authorized to discuss the process publicly and claimed anonymity.
Before the White House can announce a new candidate, it will likely require assurances of support from cinema, testers and other moderates.
The FAA will be without a Senate-approved administrator after March 2022. The FAA is trying to reassure Americans that air travel is safe despite a surge in close contact between planes this year. It’s also suffering from aging technology that failed in January, temporarily canceling all takeoffs across the country. I am trying to repair my reputation.
“The FAA needs an approved administrator and Phil Washington’s transportation and military experience makes him an excellent candidate,” Buttigieg tweeted Saturday night. Although his partisan attacks and procedural obstructions are unjustified, I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service.
Washington has run transportation agencies in Denver and Los Angeles, but his only aviation experience is less than two years as CEO of Denver Airport. But he has strong ties to the administration — he led Biden’s 2020 transition team for the Department of Transportation, which includes the FAA.
Biden, who nominated Washington last July, did not attend committee hearings for eight months. Republicans attacked his resume and seized disclosure that his name appeared in a search warrant related to a corruption investigation in Los Angeles. He said he had not been contacted by the agency.
The agency is headed by Deputy Administrator Billy Nolen, a pilot with experience in safety work for three airlines and the FAA. Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who led the opposition to Washington, said Nolen could have bipartisan support.
In a statement Saturday night, Cruz said it was clear Washington lacked the necessary experience.
“Given the significant challenges facing the FAA, now is not the time for managers to need on-the-job training,” he said. “The Biden administration now needs to nominate to the top of the FAA someone who has an extensive aviation background, who can secure broad bipartisan support in the Senate, and who can keep the public safe in flight. I have.”