Republicans are looking to deny FAA nominee Joe Biden to Phil Washington

Republican lawmakers on Thursday forced President Biden to withdraw his choice to head the Federal Aviation Administration, warning the White House that he lacked the votes to be confirmed.

Mr. Biden has nominated Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington to lead the FAA, but top Republicans have said they could block the confirmation by denying him the special waiver he would need to take the job.

Federal law requires the FAA administrator to be a civilian, but Mr. Washington is a 24-year Army veteran with retired military status, which means he is exempt from civilian status. In order to be confirmed, he would have to win a waiver from the GOP-controlled House and Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.

In a letter to Mr. Biden, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas and the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Representative Sam Graves, Republican of Missouri and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said they would not grant a waiver.

“With his lack of experience in aviation security, his lackluster management record and the legal and ethical scandals in which he has found himself embroiled, it is clear that Mr. Washington is not qualified to be the next FAA administrator,” Republicans wrote. “As a result, the legislative waiver required for his confirmation and service will not pass.”

The White House denied the claims, saying Mr. Washington retired from the military in 2000 and had served in a civilian capacity for the past 23 years.

Mr. Graves and Mr. Cruz wrote in their letter that previous applicants with retired military status should have received a waiver or given up their status, which includes retirement benefits.

Republicans say they won’t give up because Washington is embroiled in a corruption scandal in Los Angeles. However, Mr Washington has not been charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing.

The investigation 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 key role in securing the contract.

In their letter to Mr. Biden, the Republicans said that Mr. Washington had left the Los Angeles metro area and the Denver airport “entangled by legal problems, corruption investigations and public embarrassment.”

They added: “This is hardly a vision of bold, transformational leadership.”

Mr. Washington’s nomination has been going on for more than seven months. The Senate Commerce Committee held a nominating hearing Wednesday, and several Democrats rallied around the president’s nominee.

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