FAA nominee drops out after Republicans question qualifications

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) – The Federal Aviation Administration has gone nearly a year without a Senate-confirmed administrator. Now, the president’s nominee has dropped out after staunch opposition from senators who said he was unqualified.

Over the weekend, Phil Washington withdrew as the Biden nominee for administrator of the FAA as Republicans, like Senator Ted Cruz, campaigned against Washington’s nomination — saying Washington lacked the necessary experience to lead the FAA.

“I think every member of this committee knows that Mr. Washington is not qualified for the position,” Sen. Cruz said.

During a hearing, Washington said he has not served as a military pilot, commercial airline pilot or an air traffic controller when asked by Cruz.

Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) further questioned the nominee on “the six types of special use airspace that protect this national security that appear on FAA charts,” to which Washington said he could not answer the question.

Without the needed support, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said, “we will not be considering the nomination of Phil Washington.”

Washington withdrew from consideration Sunday.

In a statement, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg defended Washington, saying his transportation and military experience made him an excellent nominee and the partisan attacks against him were undeserved.

Senator Cruz says the administration should nominate the current acting administrator, Billy Nolen, who’s been in that position for nearly a year and has 33 years of experience in the field.

“This committee would move that nomination swiftly,” Cruz said.

Senators say it’s critical to confirm a permanent FAA administrator in light of recent aircraft near-misses and a meltdown of FAA systems in January.

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