Vote on FAA Nominee Delayed Amid GOP Opposition

Vote on FAA Nominee Delayed Amid GOP Opposition

Phillip Washington testifies earlier than a Senate committee. (Related Press Picture/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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A vote on President Joe Biden’s option to run the Federal Aviation Administration was delayed indefinitely March 22 within the face of an opposition blitz by Republicans, who say the nominee lacks sufficient expertise in aviation to guide the company, which is beneath stress to stem a surge in harmful shut calls between planes.

The Senate Commerce Committee was scheduled to vote on Denver Worldwide Airport CEO Phillip Washington, whose nomination has languished since Biden introduced his selection final July.

Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., an ardent supporter of the nominee, mentioned the vote can be delayed to assemble data requested by senators. She gave no date for a vote, “however we wish to do it quickly.”

Democrats maintain a 14-13 edge on the committee, so the defection of 1 may derail the nomination if all Republicans oppose it. The GOP has focused Democrats and independents from swing or red-leaning states.

Most Democrats on the panel say they’ll help Washington, however it isn’t clear if there are sufficient votes to maneuver the nomination ahead. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a Democrat till she switched to unbiased in December, and a average Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, haven’t mentioned how they’ll vote.

“I don’t know that we’re even (going to) vote on him, so I didn’t even should take a stand,” Tester instructed reporters after the committee assembly.

Sinema’s workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark March 22. At Washington’s nomination listening to this month, she praised his service within the U.S. Military and work at transit businesses, however mentioned he had “comparatively much less expertise working in aviation,” which she mentioned was “vital for this place.”

White Home press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated the administration’s help for Washington, saying he “has the {qualifications}” for the job.

“He has led the Denver Worldwide Airport, one of many busiest airports on this planet, managed a big transportation security group, has served as a command sergeant main within the army. It is a position with a key security mandate,” she mentioned. “We’re going to proceed to induce the Senate to maneuver swiftly on his affirmation.”

The FAA has not had a Senate-confirmed administrator since March 2022, when Stephen Dickson stepped down halfway by means of his time period. The company is being led by an performing administrator, Billy Nolen.

The FAA administrator will not be a cabinet-level job, however Republicans have turned the nomination right into a high-profile contest with Biden and Senate Democrats.

Washington ran transit businesses in Denver and Los Angeles, however his solely aviation-related expertise has come since taking the highest job on the Denver airport in July 2021. Washington has sturdy ties to the administration — he led the incoming Biden administration’s transition group for the Transportation Division, which incorporates the FAA.

Republicans argue, nonetheless, that he lacks expertise in FAA’s core mission of aviation security. They notice that he’s not a pilot.

“It is a job for somebody with specialised information wanted to make sure the security of the flying public,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) mentioned March 21 on the Senate ground. “Phil Washington is objectively, indisputably unqualified to guide the FAA.”

Republicans have additionally seized on Washington’s title showing in search warrants associated to a corruption investigation in Los Angeles. At his listening to three weeks in the past, Washington mentioned he had not heard from anybody in regulation enforcement in regards to the matter.

The FAA is struggling to restore its repute since approving Boeing planes that crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 folks; to cope with understaffing that contributes to flight delays; and to interchange an getting old safety-alert system that briefly grounded flights nationwide in January. And now it’s attempting to reassure vacationers that there gained’t be extra horrifying incidents of planes coming too shut collectively round runways.

The Nationwide Transportation Security Board is analyzing six current shut calls between planes. In a single, an incoming FedEx airplane got here inside lower than 100 toes of a departing Southwest jet after an air site visitors controller cleared each to make use of the identical runway in Austin, Texas.

On March 23, the FAA issued an alert urging pilots and others in aviation to emphasize the significance of following security procedures after a “variety of notable and excessive visibility occasions” this 12 months.

“Whereas the general numbers don’t replicate a rise in incidents and occurrences, the potential severity of those occasions is regarding,” the FAA mentioned within the alert.

The FAA held a “security summit” final week, at which Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy and others mentioned airways, pilots and regulators must be taught from current shut calls to forestall accidents.

Zeke Miller and Stephen Groves in Washington contributed to this report.

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