Cantwell says resounding support for FAA Administrator will help to advance FAA Reauthorization bill
Whitaker floor vote comes after unanimous approval by Cantwell-led Committee, just weeks after nomination by President Biden
Ahead of today’s cloture vote on Michael Whitaker to serve as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, urged senators to advance his nomination with bipartisan support in a speech on the Senate floor. The Senate will hold a cloture vote on his nomination at 2:15 PM EDT, with the expected confirmation vote this evening at 5 PM EDT.
“Last week, the Commerce Committee unanimously advanced Mr. Whitaker to the Senate floor. This resounding, bipartisan approval is in addition to the broad support that Mr. Whitaker has received…,” Sen. Cantwell said on the Senate floor before the vote. “I know that Mr. Whitaker in his confirmation hearing committed to making this a number one priority: [to] build a strong safety culture, attract new talent and keep pace with technology transformation.”
“The conclusion is clear: Mr. Whitaker is the right person to lead the FAA,” Sen. Cantwell added.
“I hope that we will move quickly on this nomination. And I hope that it will give us a chance to have an FAA Administrator who will also help us move quickly to resolve the FAA Reauthorization issues and get that authorization before both bodies before the end of the year,” Sen. Cantwell concluded.
Senator Cantwell successfully shepherded Michael Whitaker’s nomination through the Senate Commerce Committee with unanimous approval on October 18, 2023. Michael Whitaker was nominated by President Biden on September 7. Throughout his nomination hearing on October 4, Whitaker demonstrated his depth of aviation experience and commitment to safety, building the FAA workforce and addressing agency challenges.
Whitaker brings more than 30 years of aviation experience from a variety of roles in industry and government, including serving as Deputy FAA Administrator from 2013-2016. He has received unprecedented support from across the aviation community, including pilots and flight attendants, air traffic controllers, airlines, airports, manufacturers and machinists, past DOT and FAA leaders and the families of the ET302 crash victims.
Senator Cantwell introduced the bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act in June that would enhance consumer protections, update safety technologies, invest in airport infrastructure and tackle the air traffic controller shortage.
Chair Cantwell’s Senate Floor Remarks as Delivered: VIDEO
Mr. President, I rise today in support of the nomination of Michael Whitaker to be the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Last week, the Commerce Committee unanimously advanced Mr. Whitaker to the Senate floor.
This resounding, bipartisan approval is in addition to the broad support that Mr. Whitaker has received from the private sector. He has the support of the aviation workforce – pilots, flight attendants, machinists, air traffic controllers and the safety specialists at the FAA.
Aviation safety advocates, like the 737 MAX crash families, have called Mr. Whitaker a “strong leader” for FAA with the “ability to restore public trust and confidence in the oversight and safety standards.”
The conclusion is clear: Mr. Whitaker is the right person to lead the FAA.
And America’s chief aviation regulator has a critical mission: protect the safety of the flying public. Each day, 44,000 FAA employees oversee the safety of 25,000 daily commercial flights, 2.5 million travelers and over 5,500 airports.
The agency sets the safety standards for aerospace manufacturing. And safety starts at the top with the Administrator.
America’s aviation system is under stress, given the changes to FAA, and the innovation that we are seeing in new technology. We have challenges in the post-pandemic rebound of air travel and making sure that we have a workforce.
And the FAA’s workforce, I know that Mr. Whitaker in his confirmation hearing committed to making this a number one priority: [to] build a strong safety culture, attract new talent, and keep pace with technology transformation.
Mr. Whitaker must build an organization that meets the challenges of incorporating new users and technologies – like drones, advanced air mobility, electric propulsion, and commercial space – and just the continued growth of the busy aviation aerospace [system] around the globe.
Among the most pressing problems is addressing the air traffic controller hiring and training – and Mr. Whitaker has stated this will also be a top priority.
Finally, the FAA must be among the global leaders in aviation safety. Mr. Whitaker must work internationally – at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and through bilateral partnerships – to lift the baseline for aviation safety regulation throughout the world.
This work of rebuilding leadership starts here, at the FAA. And he’s committed to implementing the critical safety reforms that were part of the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act.
These are strong challenges, but no doubt, this Administrator can meet those challenges and live up to these commitments. I am confident that Mr. Whitaker’s abilities will make sure that this legislation is fully implemented.
Mr. President, I thank our colleagues for the time today and I hope they will support Mr. Whitaker. I hope that we will move quickly on this nomination. And I hope that it will give us a chance to have an FAA Administrator who will also help us move quickly to resolve the FAA Reauthorization issues and get that authorization before both bodies before the end of the year.