Phil Washington Withdraws Name from FAA Nomination

On March 24, Phil Washington asked President Biden to withdraw his name from nomination to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee had abruptly postponed a vote on Robinson’s nomination on March 22 after a Senator who caucuses with the majority, presumed to be Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), reportedly expressed concerns about the nomination.

David Shepardson at Reuters was the first to hear of the requested withdrawal, and sent out an exclusive at around 9 p.m. EDT on Saturday night.

Washington has since given a brief Sunday statement to ETW: “I will continue my efforts to help build and rebuild infrastructure in this country and do so with an eye towards safety, security, sustainability, resiliency, and equity.”

About an hour after the Reuters exclusive, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg officially responded on Twitter: “The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation & 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.”

At the same time, Reuters reported that “a White House official” said “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.”

The chair and ranking minority member of the Senate committee of jurisdictions also issued statements late Saturday night that came from predictably different perspectives:

Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA):

Phil Washington has the qualifications and experience to lead the FAA. I am grateful to Mr. Washington for his distinguished service to our country and his continued commitment to public service. The FAA requires strong and independent leadership from someone who will focus on safety. Republicans chose to drum up falsehoods rather than give the flying public and the aviation industry the leadership needed now.

Ranking minority member Ted Cruz (R-TX):

Since Mr. Washington was nominated last July, it’s been clear to Democrat and Republican senators, numerous aviation groups, and any impartial observer that Mr. Washington lacked the aviation experience necessary to run the FAA. Given the significant challenges facing the FAA, this wasn’t the time for an administrator who needed on-the-job training. 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.

Former House T&I chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR):

The FAA needs a strong manager not just another aviation expert who will allow the stovepipes and dysfunction to continue. Phil Washington was that person shame on those who tanked his candidacy.

On the 27th, Washington released a longer statement:

Last Friday, I submitted a letter to the President withdrawing my name from consideration to lead as Administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This was a decision that I did not make lightly. I have successfully led three large public organizations and proudly served our country in military uniform as a Command Sergeant Major (E-9) in the U.S. Army and as a disabled veteran.

Though I am confident in my ability to lead the FAA, as a transformative leader, I no longer saw a respectful, civil, and viable path forward to Senate confirmation. I faced cheap and unfounded partisan attacks and procedural obstruction with regard to my military career that would have further lengthened the already delayed confirmation process. With that said, I decided that for the good of the FAA and the country, I would withdraw my name from consideration. I wanted to put the country first and in doing so, I stepped aside to allow the Administration and the Committee to do the same by accelerating the confirmation of a permanent leader.

I remain honored and humbled by President Biden’s decision to nominate me for this position. I am also grateful for the support I received from Senator Maria Cantwell, as Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation, Senators Hickenlooper and Bennet from my home state here in Colorado, my mayor, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and a cross-section of stakeholders across the aviation community.

I am truly grateful for the overwhelming support and encouragement I have received from around the country and the world. I also want to thank and acknowledge all of the Senate Committee members for their time and consideration.

Thank you.

Philip A. Washington

3/31/23 update: President Biden sent official paperwork to Capitol Hill on March 30 withdrawing Washington’s name from nomination. At some point after that, he will have to send up a new name, and we will have more speculation on that later.

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