Denver International Airport CEO Phillip Washington, the Biden Administration’s nominee as the first black American head of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has withdrawn his name from consideration, confirmed Secretary of Transportation Pet Buttigieg on Saturday evening.
“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,” he wrote.
Washington is close to the Biden Administration. He led Biden’s 2020 transition team for the Transportation Department, which includes the FAA.
Washington was nominated in July 2022. He has faced unanimous opposition from Republicans on the Senate committee who have cited his lack of qualifications while highlighting alleged accusations of professional retaliation and discrimination in multiple lawsuits.
Washington’s only commercial aviation-related management experience is his CEO tenure at the Denver airport. He has held that job for only 20 months.
One lawsuit alleges that Washington and the city of Denver permitted intolerable working conditions, retaliatory practices and racial discrimination, as reported in Axios.
He also faces a corruption investigation when he led the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Washington claims he did nothing wrong.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a critic of Washington’s nomination, has led the campaign against Washington.
“…We discovered he failed to disclose to the committee that he’s been named in a new lawsuit alleging discriminatory and retaliatory practices at Denver’s airport," Cruz said. "He also failed to provide to the committee more than 18 hours of speeches and remarks as well as details concerning additional lawsuits involving him.”
Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema, a Democrat turned independent last December, also balked at supporting Biden’s FAA choice.
Sinema reportedly slashed Democrats' hopes of moving Washington's nomination out of committee and on to the full Senate last week, according to multiple reports.
The FAA has lacked a Senate-confirmed FAA administrator since March 2022.
The agency is trying to reassure Americans that air travel is safe despite a surge in close calls this year and reports of pilots’ incapaciations as recently reported by CDMedia.
The FAA’s Acting Administrator is Billy Nolen, a pilot who has held safety jobs at three airlines and the FAA.
Senator Cruz has predicted Nolen could win bipartisan Senate support.
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