The Senate Commerce Committee is set to vote next week on the nomination of Phil Washington to be FAA Administrator. Scheduled for 10 a.m. on March 22, the executive session will also include consideration of the Notam Improvement Act of 2022, S.66, among other legislation.
The vote comes as the nomination has faced staunch Republican opposition, including from Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Ted Cruz (Texas) and former ranking member Roger Wicker (Mississippi). Both have cited Washington's limited aviation experience and a corruption probe that the California attorney general’s office confirmed to Cruz is ongoing and involves Washington.
During his confirmation hearing in February, Washington called allegations against him false and said he was unaware of the state’s activities regarding the investigation.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have ratcheted up a lobbying campaign in support of Washington, releasing numerous letters in favor of the nomination. These include one from former FAA Administrators Michael Huerta and Jane Garvey, and former acting administrator Linda Daschle, who wrote: “While aviation experience is important, this is not limited to flying airplanes. None of us were pilots—in fact, only two of the last five confirmed Administrators have been pilots. Yet, each of us had transportation, technology, and aviation-related backgrounds that prepared us for our jobs.”
In addition, Washington has garnered support from unions representing flight attendants, machinists, and other airline workers, as well as from Frontier Airlines and Airports Council International—North America.
Meanwhile, Cruz has reportedly pushed the idea of instead supporting acting administrator Billy Nolen to step into the role on a permanent basis. Cruz posted on his Facebook page yesterday: “The differences between Biden FAA nominee Phil Washington and FAA acting administrator Billy Nolen could not be more glaring. America needs someone to lead the FAA with actual aviation experience!”
Rarely has the acting administrator been nominated for the position permanently.
As for S.66, it is the companion bill of the Notam Improvement Act, which passed the House in January and would mandate an FAA task force to review necessary improvements to the notam system.