Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday he would push to confirm President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, following a computer system failure that triggered the delay of more than 10,000 flights last week.
Phillip Washington, Biden’s pick to lead the FAA, has yet to receive a confirmation hearing in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“There is no doubt about it: it’s time to clear the runway for President Biden’s choice for FAA Administrator, Phil Washington. With recent events, including airline troubles and last week’s tech problem, this agency needs a leader confirmed by the Senate immediately,” Schumer said in a statement Sunday. “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.”
Washington has faced questions about his limited aviation experience and, in September, was named in a search warrant issued as part of a political corruption investigation in Los Angeles. But Schumer’s Sunday announcement appears to show he’s prepared to push past those issues.
If confirmed, Washington would be the first Black permanent administrator of the agency. He is currently the CEO of Denver International Airport – the third-busiest airport in the world. Washington previously held leadership roles a municipal transit organizations, including in Denver and Los Angeles, focused on bus and rail lines.
Because his nomination wasn’t acted upon during the last Congress, Biden faced a choice this year of whether to resubmit his name for consideration or identify a new nominee.
Biden renominated Washington earlier this month, signaling the administration’s continued support for him.
The FAA has been without a permanent administrator since March, when former President Donald Trump’s appointee, Stephen Dickson, stepped down midway through his five-year term.
The agency is facing increased scrutiny after it was forced to ground thousands of flights starting Wednesday when air traffic control officials opted to shutdown the central database for all NOTAMs (Notice to Air Missions) nationwide after they found a corrupt file in the system. That plan and the outage led to massive flight delays and the first nationwide stop of air traffic in more than 20 years.
CNN’s Jack Forrest, Kevin Liptak, Maegan Vazquez and Pete Muntean contributed to this report.