President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Federal Aviation Administration is withdrawing his name from the nomination weeks after he was grilled by Republican lawmakers for not being qualified to head the agency, according to reports.
Phillip Washington, decided to pull his name from consideration due to “an onslaught of unfounded Republican attacks” on his service and experience, a White House official told CNN on Saturday.
Washington was first nominated to be Administrator of the FAA by Biden eight months ago but has faced criticism from GOP members of congress over his lack of experience in aviation and potential legal entanglements.
The Biden administration respects Washington’s decision to pull his name from consideration, sources familiar with the decision, officials told the outlet.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation was slated to vote on Washington’s nomination on Wednesday, but that vote was postponed because “they don’t have the votes to report him out of committee,” a Republican aide told the news outlet.
Washington, the current CEO of Denver International Airport, led the Biden-Harris transition team for the Department of Transportation. He has also held leadership roles at municipal transit organizations in Denver and Los Angeles and served in the military for 24 years.
He had no aviation experience prior to taking the position at the Denver airport in 2021.
During his first confirmation hearing earlier this month, Washington to heat from Republicans who attacked his experience.
“As I look at your record, I see a record where you’ve got experience with buses. You’ve got experience with trains,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz said, referencing Washington’s jobs in Denver and Los Angeles.
The FAA has come under fire since flights nationwide were grounded for hours in January — for the first time since 9/11 — because of an outage of a system that offers safety and other information to pilots.
Several recent near-collisions involving aircraft and staffing shortages leading to travel disruptions have also plagued the agency.