Sen. Cruz, Rep. Graves: Congress Will Not Pass Legislative Waiver Required for FAA Nominee to be Confirmed and Serve

March 2, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) today sent a letter to President Biden urging him to immediately withdraw his nominee for administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Phil Washington, because he fails to meet the legal requirements to be confirmed and serve.

Under federal law, the FAA administrator must “have experience in a field directly related to aviation” and “be a civilian,” which Congress has strictly interpreted as excluding retired military members. The letter explains how Mr. Washington, who is a retired member of the Army, does not meet these requirements and why Congress will not pass legislation to grant him a waiver from the law’s “civilian” requirement.

In the letter Ranking Member Cruz and Chairman Graves write:

“Through the years, Congress and the President have repeatedly put this strict interpretation of the law’s ‘civilian’ requirement into practice when retired military members have been nominated to serve as FAA Administrator. On no less than six occasions, including four occasions during your service in the Senate, Congress has required the passage of legislative waivers, or similar actions, to allow retired military members to serve in the role of Administrator without violating the law.

“This interpretation is also a bipartisan one; each previous waiver has been insisted on by a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives as well as Presidents and Senators of both parties. When examined through the lens of the statute’s legislative history and the clear precedents Congress has set with prior FAA Administrators, it is obvious that Mr. Washington, who is a retired member of the Army, is not a ‘civilian’ under the statute. Thus, his appointment requires a change in law, i.e., a waiver, passed by both the House and Senate […]

“In addition to the requirement that the FAA Administrator be a civilian, the law also requires that the Administrator ‘have experience in a field directly related to aviation.’ Mr. Washington’s resume shows extensive experience in several modes of transportation and it would be fair to say that he has experience in light rail, commuter buses, the electrification of mass transit fleets, and the implementation of ‘equity’ initiatives consistent with the radical social justice movement on the political left. However, his ‘experience in a field directly related to aviation’ is rather lacking[…]

“We urge you to withdraw this deeply flawed nomination immediately and instead nominate an individual who both meets the statutory qualifications for the position and has the temperament, judgment, and experience necessary to be successful at this pivotal time for the FAA and aviation more broadly. The success of the Nation’s aviation system, and the safety of the flying public, are too important to risk on an inexperienced, unqualified nominee.”

The full text of the letter is available here.

WATCH: Sen. Cruz: Phil Washington Doesn’t Qualify Because He Has Woefully Inadequate Aviation Safety Experience