Biden FAA nominee who withdrew cites 'cheap and unfounded partisan attacks'

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait for the resumption of flights at O’Hare International Airport
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden's nominee to head the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who withdrew from consideration said on Monday he did not see a path forward for winning approval.

Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington said in a statement that he had written to Biden on Friday to withdraw.

"I no longer saw a respectful, civil, and viable path forward to Senate confirmation," Washington said on Monday. "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."

He added: "I decided that for the good of the FAA and the country, I would withdraw my name from consideration."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg confirmed on Saturday that Washington had withdrawn. Washington's statement on Monday offered more details into his thinking.

Senate Republicans said Washington was unqualified to serve, citing his limited aviation experience and failure to answer some key questions. Democrats were forced to cancel a planned committee vote last week on his confirmation after some senators remained undecided.

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Independent, said on Monday: "The administration should quickly nominate a permanent FAA administrator with the necessary, substantial aviation safety experience and expertise."

The FAA has been without a Senate-confirmed administrator for nearly a year.

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell said: "Republicans chose to drum up falsehoods rather than give the flying public and the aviation industry the leadership needed now."

Senator Ted Cruz, ranking Republican on the Commerce Committee, 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."

The FAA has faced numerous safety questions.

In January, the agency halted all departing passenger airline flights for nearly two hours because of a pilot messaging database outage, the first nationwide ground stop of its kind since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Last week, the FAA issued a safety alert to airlines,

pilots and others about the "need for continued vigilance and

attention to mitigation of safety risks" after a series of

high-profile near collisions.

Six serious runway incursions since January

prompted the agency to convene a safety summit this month.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)