Nov 30, 2022 - Politics & Policy

FAA head confirmation hearing delayed as agency leadership remains in flux

Phil Washington speaks at a press conference in 2015. Photo: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The hearing for Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington to head the Federal Aviation Administration — which has been leaderless since late March — won't happen until next year.

Why it matters: It's the latest hitch Washington has faced since news surfaced in September that he was named in a criminal search in Los Angeles related to his time as CEO of LA Metro.

  • The delay also means the White House will need to renominate Washington — who President Biden first tapped in July — if the administration intends to stick with its pick.

What they're saying: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who chairs the committee that oversees the FAA, told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. Senate won't begin holding hearings until at least January after the new Congress convenes.

  • "There's too many things people are trying to get done to get that floor time, so we said, 'Let's not go through a hearing in this Congress and a hearing in next Congress,'" Cantwell said, per Politico.
  • Cantwell is confident about Washington's renomination, and that the U.S. Senate will confirm him, she told Reuters. In the meantime, she plans to meet with Washington next week to discuss what's next.
  • A spokesperson for Cantwell did not immediately respond to Axios Denver's requests for comment. A spokesperson for Washington deferred Axios' questions to the White House.

The other side: Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) — the top GOP official on the FAA panel — said Washington's nomination should not be approved, and the possibility of holding a hearing on his nomination this year "should be dead."

  • In September, the senator expressed he was "deeply troubled" by corruption allegations connected to Washington and concerned about his "lack of experience in aviation."

Context: A search warrant executed in September — which names Washington and is part of a criminal probe involving the Los Angeles Metro transit agency — has heightened scrutiny on Capitol Hill and in Colorado over the airport executive's confirmation.

  • Washington has denied all allegations, Bloomberg reports.

Of note: The African American Mayors Association last week endorsed Washington as the next FAA administrator in a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology.

  • "He is dedicated, smart and always prepared. He should be confirmed without delay," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who appointed Washington to lead DIA, penned in the letter.

What to watch: It remains unclear whether the Biden administration will renominate Washington next year.

  • A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to Axios Denver's request for comment.
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