WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Federal Aviation Administration withdrew from consideration in the face of Republican opposition in the Senate, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
Phil Washington has run Denver International Airport since 2021 and before that had largely surface transportation experience, prompting Republicans to raise concerns about his lack of experience working as a pilot or for an airline.
In a Twitter post late Saturday, Buttigieg blamed “partisan attacks and procedural obstruction” for Washington’s decision, saying they were “undeserved.” The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in the Democratic-led Senate had postponed a scheduled vote on his nomination last week.
The FAA has been without a permanent leader for about a year. Washington would have been the agency’s first permanent Black administrator if confirmed.
A White House official said Washington had the right qualifications and experience for the role and blamed Republican attacks for sinking his nomination. The administration will move swiftly to nominate a new candidate, according to the official.
Among the disputes was GOP lawmakers’ insistence that Washington’s status as a military retiree meant he required a waiver passed by both chambers. The administration and Democratic lawmakers said a waiver wasn’t needed.
A recent series of near-crashes in U.S. aviation have turned attention to the FAA, prompting steps by the agency to review safety.
(With assistance from Justin Sink.)