(CNN) — President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Federal Aviation Administration is withdrawing his name from nomination due to “an onslaught of unfounded Republican attacks” on the nominee’s service and experience, a White House official told CNN.
Phillip Washington’s nomination was first announced by the White House last year, but has faced strong criticism from Republican lawmakers over a number of issues, including Washington’s slim aviation credentials and his potential legal entanglements.
The White House respects Washington’s decision to withdraw his name and praised his public service record and qualifications to lead the FAA, the official said.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation was scheduled to vote on Washington’s nomination on Wednesday, but that vote was postponed. A Republican Senate aide told CNN after the postponed vote that “he was pulled because they don’t have the votes to report him out of committee.”
Because Republicans remained unified in their opposition to Washington’s prospective leadership, “his nomination is on life support,” the aide said.
The nomination withdrawal was first reported by Reuters.
Washington, the current CEO of the Denver International Airport, has held leadership roles at municipal transit organizations, including in Denver and Los Angeles, focused on bus and rail lines. He also led the Biden-Harris transition team for the Department of Transportation. Prior to his work in transportation, Washington served in the military for 24 years.
While Washington has worked in transportation-related positions since 2000, he had no experience in the aviation industry prior to joining the Denver airport in 2021 — something that became a major concern among committee members.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Saturday highlighted the need for a confirmed FAA administrator as he condemned the “partisan attacks” on Washington.
“The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation & military experience made him an excellent nominee. The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved, but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service,” Buttigieg said in a tweet.
The White House will work to select a new nominee to lead the FAA, the official said.
“Politics must not hold up confirming an Administrator to lead the FAA, and we will move expeditiously to nominate a new candidate for FAA Administrator. We believe the Senate owes it to the American people to swiftly consider and confirm a leader to this key safety agency,” the official said.
This story has been updated with additional information.