Chuck Schumer: Senate needs to ‘clear the runway’ for Biden’s FAA pick

Chuck Schumer says Senate needs to ‘clear the runway’ for Biden’s FAA pick to be confirmed after the nationwide shutdown and Southwest chaos

  • Chuck Schumer vowed to overcome a partisan gridlock over a new FAA head
  • Said he will ‘clear the runway’ for a confirmation hearing for Phillip Washington
  • The FAA has operated without a Senate-confirmed administrator since March
  • Republicans claim Biden’s pick does not have the necessary experience 
  • Washington failed to get a confirmation hearing in the 117th Congress after his initial nomination in July – and was just renominated this month 
  • Comes amid a series of recent meltdown in air travel in the U.S.  

Amid growing pressure to confirm a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) administrator, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says it’s ‘time to clear the runway’ for President Joe Biden‘s pick Phillip Washington.

Republicans, however, oppose Washington’s nomination due to his lack of experience and recent allegations of potential corruption.

But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see a need to fill the void left when Trump-nominated Administrator Steve Dickson stepped-down halfway through his five year term at the end of March.

In recent weeks, Americans have faced a high level of interruptions in air travel.

Southwest Airlines had a complete meltdown over the holidays when increased travel and issues with their systems led to thousands of flights being delayed or canceled.

A few weeks later, all domestic flights at U.S. airports were grounded for several hours Wednesday morning due to an FAA systems glitch, which caused a ripple effect on flight plans throughout last week.

Senate Majority Leader chuck Schumer said during a press conference in New York Sunday that the upper chamber will 'clear the runway' for a confirmation hearing for Phillip Washington, Joe Biden's pick to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Senate Majority Leader chuck Schumer said during a press conference in New York Sunday that the upper chamber will ‘clear the runway’ for a confirmation hearing for Phillip Washington, Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Schumer promised on Sunday that the Senate will work to overcome the partisan gridlock over confirming a new FAA leader.

‘It’s time to clear the runway for President Biden’s choice for FAA Administrator, Phil Washington,’ Schumer said at a press conference. ‘With recent events, including airline troubles and last week’s tech problem, this agency needs a leader confirmed by the Senate immediately.’

‘I intend to break this logjam, work to hold a hearing for Mr. Washington, where he can detail his experience and answer questions and then work towards a speedy Senate confirmation,’ Schumer added.

Biden earlier this month renominated Washington to lead the FAA after failing to get a confirmation hearing in the 117th Congress with the initial July nomination.

The FAA has operated without a Senate-confirmed administrator for nearly a year. Republicans claim Phillip Washington (pictured) does not have the experience needed to lead the FAA

The FAA has operated without a Senate-confirmed administrator for nearly a year. Republicans claim Phillip Washington (pictured) does not have the experience needed to lead the FAA

Meanwhile, the FAA is being led in interim by Acting Administrator Billy Nolen.

The White House and Transportation Department are facing growing pressures to act to prevent a full-out airline crisis following the FAA outage last week, which closely followed Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights over the holidays due to a scheduling system failure.

The FAA has now been functioning without a Senate-confirmed administrator for nearly a full year – leading to more criticism and questions surrounding the mishandling of recent air travel meltdowns.

Both the House and Senate are concerned that there has been a void in leadership at the FAA.

Senator Ted Cruz, who is taking the top GOP position on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in the new Congress, said in a statement Thursday that the FAA failures exhibit the larger ‘dysfunction’ within the Department of Transportation under Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

A spokesperson for House Transportation Chairman Sam Graves told DailyMail.com the congressman is ‘very concerned about’ the failure to secure a confirmed FAA administrator.

'There has been a collective drain of experience there in recent years that must be addressed, but the Administrator is obviously the highest priority,' a spokesperson for House Transportation Committee Chairman Sam Graves told DailyMail.com

‘There has been a collective drain of experience there in recent years that must be addressed, but the Administrator is obviously the highest priority,’ a spokesperson for House Transportation Committee Chairman Sam Graves told DailyMail.com

‘There has been a collective drain of experience there in recent years that must be addressed, but the Administrator is obviously the highest priority,’ the spokesperson added.

Joe Biden’s pick to head the FAA is Denver International Airport Chief Executive Phil Washington. The president renominated Washington last month to lead the agency.

Washington, however, has faced criticism from Republicans after he was named in a search warrant that tied him to corruption allegations at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Washington has denied wrongdoing. He formerly served as the CEO of the Los Angeles public transport system.

Currently Billy Nolen, the FAA’s top aviation safety official, has been running the agency on an interim basis until an administrator is confirmed. He was appointed as the acting administrator in April 2022 after Trump-nominated Administrator Steve Dickson stepped-down halfway through his five year term at the end of March.

During a committee hearing last year, before ascending to Ranking Member, Cruz said of Washington’s nomination: ‘Even when the administration finally sends us a nominee for FAA administrator, they send someone with almost zero aviation experience – a requisite for the job – and who has recent news has highlighted has more than a little bit of scandal surrounding him.’

Senator Ted Cruz is taking over as GOP Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which is tasked with confirming an FAA administrator. He said that Washington has 'almost zero aviation experience'

Senator Ted Cruz is taking over as GOP Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which is tasked with confirming an FAA administrator. He said that Washington has ‘almost zero aviation experience’

The Federal Aviation Administration system that sends pilots safety alerts and other critical information glitched this week and led to hours of all departing flights being grounded on Wednesday morning – and lingering delayed and cancellations on Thursday

The Federal Aviation Administration system that sends pilots safety alerts and other critical information glitched this week and led to hours of all departing flights being grounded on Wednesday morning – and lingering delayed and cancellations on Thursday

Senator Roger Wicker, who Cruz is taking over for as ranking member of the Committee that oversees DOT and would need to confirm the FAA administrator, has also been highly critical of Washington during his first nomination last year.

Wicker expressed criticism over supporting Washington due to his lack of aviation industry experience – as well as the aforementioned warrant.

Billy Nolen has been serving as acting FAA Administrator since the Trump-appointed head stepped down in March 2022 when halfway through his five-year term

Billy Nolen has been serving as acting FAA Administrator since the Trump-appointed head stepped down in March 2022 when halfway through his five-year term

The warrant was issued in the fall following whistleblower complaints and sought more information related to potential favoritism in awarding contracts to the LA Metro Transit Authority after leading the group for six years.

Washington was appointed last year to his current role as the CEO of the Denver International Airport, which is the third busiest airport in the world.

He also led the transition team for the Biden-Harris Department of Transportation and co-chaired their administration’s Infrastructure Policy Committee.

Increased scrutiny has fallen on the FAA and DOT in general following a slew of air and other travel-related meltdowns over the last two years.

The FAA had to prevent departing flights across the U.S. from taking off for several hours Wednesday morning due to a computer glitch.

‘The flying public deserves safety in the sky,’ Cruz said in a statement Wednesday. ‘The FAA’s inability to keep an important safety system up and running is completely unacceptable and just the latest example of dysfunction within the Department of Transportation.’

‘The administration needs to explain to Congress what happened, and Congress should enact reforms in this year’s FAA reauthorization legislation,’ he added. ‘This incident also highlights why the public needs a competent, proven leader with substantive aviation experience leading the FAA.’

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