Wicker Slams Phil Washington Nomination

Miss. Senator Strongly Opposes FAA Nominee in Commerce Committee Hearing

March 1, 2023

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today slammed the nomination of Phil Washington to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in a committee hearing. Wicker emphasized Washington’s woeful lack of experience and the multiple allegations of corruption he is facing.

“We need a very, very qualified person in charge of the FAA immediately,” Wicker said. “And for the life of me, I do not understand why the president persists with this nomination.”

Watch Senator Wicker’s full remarks here or read them as delivered below:

Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, and Mr. Washington, Sergeant Major Washington, thank you for being here. I have a great deal of respect for your service with the United States Military, and I say that as a veteran who didn't do anything nearly what you were able to do as a Command Sergeant Major.

You were nominated in July of 2022, is that correct?

[Yes, Senator.]

And Sergeant Major, I think it's fair to say that you would already be in office, you would already be confirmed if there had not been serious bipartisan questions about your qualifications and your fitness for office. And it gives me no great pleasure to say that. I've been chairman of this committee, I've been ranking member of this committee, and I've been on it for a long time. What is going on with your nomination is not my idea of a good time. But it's a responsibility that I think we have.

At the time of your nomination, you had had this CEO position at Denver for about a year. Safety is the top priority of the FAA. And I think really on the both ends of the dais, there have been serious questions about your expertise in that area, and that's been pointed out in some of the questions.

On your resumé, at Denver, you cite specifically –  success in construction, a renovation program in facilities, and the implementation of a career pathway. Again, I don't think that qualifies you for this position, and in particular, with what has been going on the last the last few months with regard to these near misses, it's very, very troubling.

There's something, though, that Senator Cruz said that I'm not sure I agree with. He said you might have been confirmed for the Amtrak board had you been nominated for that, and that may be true, but we would still have had to get better answers to these questions about investigations and about allegations that are still out there about public corruption.

You have been involved in multiple corruption investigations, accused of retaliating against a whistleblower that exposed this corruption. The investigation relates to involvement with a series of no bid contracts awarded by L.A. Metro to a nonprofit to operate a sexual harassment hotline. The investigation found that the hotline cost the taxpayers more than $8,000 per call. Most of these calls were misdials or spam.

The nonprofit awarded the contract was a close friend and campaign donor of an L.A. County Supervisor. The investigation is still pending and has been taken over just recently by the California Attorney General.

And in addition, you have been accused of discriminating and retaliating against the whistleblower who received a $625,000 settlement. I'm not sure for any position with those being unresolved that you would have been confirmed. And again, it gives me no pleasure to say this.

Just days ago, a lawsuit was filed by the Denver International Airport’s former Senior Vice President of Parking, Benjamin Juarez, who left his post last year. The lawsuit alleges discriminatory pay and personnel practices at the airport.

There was this matter that Senator Cruz mentioned about the search warrant, including accusations of misconduct and in seeking a record of your communications. And this has not yet been resolved.

As we meet today, the California Attorney General's office is still conducting this public corruption investigation.

We need a very, very qualified person in charge of the FAA immediately. And for the life of me, I do not understand why the president persists with this nomination based on so many questions from the corruption aspect and also the qualification aspect. And for that reason, I do think the bipartisan opposition will continue, sir. Thank you, Madam Chair.