The White House announced on Saturday that Phillip A. Washington, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has withdrawn from consideration for the job. This decision came after the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation postponed its vote on Mr. Washington’s nomination, which had been scheduled for Wednesday. Mr. Washington, a 24-year Army veteran, had been the chief executive of Denver International Airport since 2021, but critics in the Senate argued that he lacked sufficient aviation experience and questioned his connection to a corruption investigation in Los Angeles.
The White House defended Mr. Washington’s qualifications, but blamed “unfounded Republican attacks” for delaying his nomination and leading to his withdrawal. Abdullah Hasan, a White House spokesman, said in a statement to The New York Times: “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. Washington, who denied any wrongdoing in the matter, 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. Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. transportation secretary, expressed his disappointment in Mr. Washington’s withdrawal, saying on Twitter: “The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation and 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.”
The FAA 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. In recent months, the agency has faced numerous challenges, including a series of near collisions at airports across the country and a system outage in January that caused widespread disruptions.
Mr. Washington would have been the first Black person confirmed as F.A.A. administrator, but Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, argued in a hearing earlier this month that he was not qualified for the position. Citing the aviation backgrounds of previous F.A.A. leaders, he asked Mr. Washington technical questions related to the Boeing 737 Max crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
The Times is seeking input from individuals who work in aviation or government agencies that help keep the aviation sector running. The publication wants to hear from people who work for or used to work for airlines or airports and will not publish any part of the submission without permission.