Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Wednesday said that President Biden's nominee to serve as the next leader of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is not qualified for the position.
During a Senate Commerce committee confirmation hearing, Cruz cited a need for the next FAA administrator to have "decades of experience in aviation" and said that the nominee before the committee, Phil Washington, lacks the necessary experience.
"The nominee before us, Phil Washington, had a long and honorable career in the military. But he does not have any experience in aviation safety," Cruz said. "This, quite simply, is a position he is not qualified for."
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Washington is currently the CEO of Denver International Airport (DIA). He was first nominated by Biden last year, but he failed to advance amid concerns from Republicans about his experience. His confirmation has been further stalled by allegations of discriminatory and retaliatory practices by Washington at DIA and his involvement with a corruption investigation at LA Metro.
Washington was CEO at LA Metro, which is being investigated after it awarded a pricey contract for a sexual harassment hotline – the hotline was found to cost over $8,000 per call it received – that was awarded to a charity run by a close friend of an LA Metro board member. Washington has denied wrongdoing, but Cruz has called on the Senate to proceed slowly with his nomination in light of these allegations and other whistleblower claims of misconduct.
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In his opening remarks Wednesday, Cruz slammed Biden's choice of Washington to lead the FAA, accusing the White House of treating the position "as a patronage job" and "playing politics with the flying public's safety."
He asserted that Washington's previous management of city transit agencies is characterized by "mismanagement and wasteful spending." He referenced news reports about Washington's attempt to install a $200,000 sauna to the LA Metro's employee gym, as well as his reported "lavish spending" as city buses "broke down and caught fire due to lack of money."
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"The New York Times reported that a Denver rail project overseen by Mr. Washington ran up a $2 billion plus deficit and has become over 30 years behind schedule. Just last month, Mr. Washington, another Denver official spent more than $100,000 on a junket to Africa to drum up support to Denver's airport," Cruz said. "Government waste and delayed over budget projects are things we want to change at the FAA, not continue."
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Cruz also heavily criticized Washington's diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at LA Metro and DIA.
"Safety, not political posturing, needs to be paramount af the FAA," Cruz said.
Fox News' Brianna Herlihy and Tyler Olson contributed to this report.