Nominee for F.A.A. Post Withdraws From Consideration
WASHINGTON — President Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, Phillip A. Washington, has withdrawn from consideration for the job, according to the White House.
Mr. Washington’s Republican critics in the Senate had argued that he lacked sufficient aviation experience, and they raised questions about his connection to a corruption investigation in Los Angeles.
His withdrawal came shortly after the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation said it would delay its vote on Mr. Washington’s nomination, which had been scheduled for Wednesday.
Abdullah Hasan, a spokesman for the White House, said that Mr. Washington had the right qualifications and experience to run the F.A.A.
“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,” Mr. Hasan said in a statement to The New York Times.
Though Mr. Washington, a 24-year Army veteran, has been the chief executive of Denver International Airport since 2021, much of his career involved ground transport: leading Denver’s Regional Transportation District and later the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
He has been linked to a Los Angeles public corruption investigation involving no-bid contracts awarded by the transit system to a nonprofit operating a sexual harassment hotline. Last year, the California attorney general’s office took over the investigation from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Mr. Washington has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.
Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. transportation secretary, had announced Mr. Washington’s withdrawal on Twitter a few hours before the White House released its statement.
“The F.A.A. needs a confirmed administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation and military experience made him an excellent nominee,” Mr. 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.”
The F.A.A. has been without permanent leadership since Stephen Dickson, a former Delta Air Lines executive tapped by President Donald J. Trump in 2019, stepped down nearly a year ago.
Billy Nolen, the agency’s top safety official, has been in charge since Mr. Dickson’s departure.
In recent months, the agency has dealt with a number of challenges, including a series of near-collisions at airports around the country and a system outage in January that caused widespread disruptions.
Mr. Washington, 65, would have been the first Black person confirmed as F.A.A. administrator. President Biden nominated him to the post in July 2022, but he did not receive a hearing in the last Congress. The president resubmitted the nomination in January.
In a hearing earlier this month, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, argued that Mr. Washington was simply not qualified for the position. Citing the aviation backgrounds of previous F.A.A. leaders, he peppered Mr. Washington with technical questions related to the Boeing 737 Max crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
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