Republican lawmakers pressed President Biden on Thursday to withdraw his pick to head the Federal Aviation Administration, warning the White House there aren’t enough votes for confirmation.
Mr. Biden has nominated Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington to lead the FAA, but top Republicans said they can block confirmation by denying a special waiver he would need to take the job.
Federal law requires that the FAA administrator be a civilian, but Mr. Washington is a 24-year Army veteran with retired military status, meaning he is exempt from civilian statuTo to be confirmed, he would have to secure a waiver from the GOP-controlled House and the Senate, where the Democrats have a slim majority.
In a letter to Mr. Biden, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican and ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Sam Graves, Missouri Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said they won’t grant the waiver.
“From his lack of aviation safety experience to his lackluster management experience to the legal and ethical scandals he has found himself entangled in, it is clear that Mr. Washington is not qualified to be the next administrator of the FAA,” the Republicans wrote. “As a result, a legislative waiver required for him to be confirmed and serve will not pass.”
The White House has pushed back on those claims, saying Mr. Washington retired from the Army in 2000 and has served in a civilian capacity for the past 23 years.
Mr. Graves and Mr. Cruz wrote in their letter that previous nominees with retired military status had to secure a waiver or give up their status, which includes retirement benefits.
Republicans say they won’t grant the waiver because Mr. Washington is involved in a public corruption scandal in Los Angeles. However, Mr. Washington has not been charged with a crime and he has denied wrongdoing.
The investigation, which is managed by the California attorney general’s office, involves no-bid contracts awarded by LA Metro, the city’s transit system, to a nonprofit that operates a sexual harassment hotline. Mr. Washington was CEO of LA Metro at the time and played a pivotal role in awarding the contract.
In their letter to Mr. Biden, the Republicans said Mr. Washington left LA Metro and the Denver Airport “entangled in legal troubles, corruption investigations and public embarrassment.”
They added, “This is hardly the vision of bold, transformational leadership.”
Mr. Washington’s nomination has dragged on for more than seven months. The Senate Commerce Committee held a nomination hearing Wednesday, with several Democrats rallying around the president’s nominee.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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