Biden’s FAA nominee bows out as support on left dwindles

by Jacob Fuller

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

For the second time in a month, one of President Joe Biden’s key nominees has withdrawn from consideration after failing to garner enough Democrat and independent support in the Senate to be confirmed.

Phil Washington, currently CEO of Denver International Airport, stepped away from the vetting process for the position of FAA Administrator following staunch resistance from Republicans and key defections from the left. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg confirmed the news on Twitter.

“The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation and military experience made him an excellent nominee,” Buttigieg wrote. “The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service.”

However, the secretary’s remarks are not entirely representative of what occurred. Unlike Gigi Sohn, who withdrew her name from consideration for a top spot at the FCC after Republicans continued to criticize her anti-conservative biases on social media, Washington met resistance not for partisan leanings but for a sincere lack of experience in aviation.


Washington’s only experience in aviation is through his current job, which he’s held for just two years. He had previously spent extensive time presiding over the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He was later named in a search warrant executed by authorities investigating alleged corruption in the LACMTA. Washington has denied any wrongdoing.

Conservatives have argued that given the state of the aviation industry in the United States — with massive delays in air travel and a well-documented, hours-long nationwide grounding chief among the numerous recent woes — a more experienced administrator is needed.

“Given the significant challenges facing the FAA, this wasn’t the time for an administrator that needed on-the-job training,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a statement. “The Biden administration must now quickly name someone to head the FAA who has an extensive aviation background, can earn widespread bipartisan support in the Senate, and will keep the flying public safe.”

Like Sohn, Washington’s ultimate problem wasn’t Republican resistance, but non-Republicans choosing to break from Democrats.

Kyrsten Sinema, the recently turned independent senator from Arizona, and Sen. John Thune, a moderate Democrat from Montana, are widely believed to have been the lawmakers who sealed Washington’s fate.


The White House expressed regret that Washington was stepping away, but in a statement given to Reuters promised to “move expeditiously to nominate a new candidate for FAA administrator.”

Billy Nolen, who has served as FAA Administrator on an interim basis for about a year, could be the next name pushed forward by Biden.

If that were the case, Nolen could have the support he needs to be confirmed. It has been widely reported that Nolen enjoys the support of numerous Republicans on Capitol Hill.

As previously reported on FISM, Washington and Sohn were among several key nominees Biden resubmitted to the Senate at the start of the year.