DENVER — Denver International Airport (DIA) CEO Phil Washington said he withdrew his nomination to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after he "no longer saw a respectful, civil and viable path forward to Senate confirmation."
Washington released a statement Monday with his reasoning behind why he decided to withdraw from the nomination process over the weekend.
"This was a decision that I did not make lightly," Washington said. "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," Washington said. "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 for the Administration and the Committee to do the same by accelerating the confirmation of a permanent leader."
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg confirmed Washington's withdrawal in a tweet Saturday night, calling him “an excellent nominee” and blaming undeserved and partisan attacks.
"I remain honored and humbled by President Biden's decision to nominate me for this position," Washington wrote. "I am also grateful for the support I received from Senator Maria Cantwell, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Senators Hickenlooper and Bennet from my home state here in Colorado, U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, my mayor, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and a cross-section of stakeholders across the aviation community."
Republicans were united in opposition to Washington, calling him unqualified because of limited aviation experience. Democrats and allied independents have still pushed the nomination through, but several senators on their side balked.
"I am truly grateful for the overwhelming support and encouragement I have received from around the country and the world," Washington said. "I also want to thank and acknowledge all of the Senate Committee members for their time and consideration."
The FAA has lacked a Senate-confirmed administrator since March 2022.
“The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation & military experience made him an excellent nominee,” Buttigieg tweeted Saturday. “The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved, but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led opposition to Washington, said on Saturday that Washington's lack of necessary experience was obvious.
“Given the significant challenges facing the FAA, this wasn’t the time for an administrator who needed on-the-job training,” Cruz said. "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.”
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