The Senate Commerce Committee has pushed off consideration of the nomination of Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington to be the next FAA Administrator to a “future date pending information that members have been seeking,” according to chair Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).
The committee had been scheduled to consider the nomination today amid a partisan divide, with Democrats strongly backing Washington. Further, the committee has released numerous letters of support and other endorsements from unions, airport groups, airlines, and past administrators, among others.
Meanwhile, Republicans have remained opposed, citing a lack of experience and Washington's possible role in an ongoing corruption probe. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the ranking minority member on the committee, praised the move to delay the vote and reiterated his opposition.
He added that the White House has an “easy and clear path” before it with FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen, who Cruz said has “all of the experience that Mr. Washington lacks.” Cruz also maintained that should Nolen be nominated, he would receive bipartisan support and confirmation could come swiftly.
Cantwell, however, maintained that Washington “is qualified” and supported by former FAA administrators such as Jane Garvey, who took her role with a limited aviation background. “We will have this debate in the future,” she added.
Leading up to the consideration of the nomination, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Missouri) published an essay reiterating that Washington would need a congressionally approved waiver from the requirement that the nominee be a civilian, given his background with the U.S. Army.
“Jamming this nomination through in partisan fashion would be incredibly shortsighted," he wrote in an article in the Washington insider publication The Hill. "If Washington is confirmed under these circumstances, any action the FAA takes could face legal challenges, further undermining the agency’s and new administrator’s effectiveness,”