U.S. Senate will not take up FAA nomination before 2023 -lawmaker

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing in Washington
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) listens during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on President Biden's proposed budget request for the Department of Transportation, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2022. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The U.S Senate does not plan to take up President Joe Biden's nominee to head the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) until next year, a key lawmaker said.

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, who heads the panel that overseas the FAA, told Reuters late on Tuesday she planned to hold a hearing for Denver International Airport Chief Executive Phil Washington to head the FAA after the new Congress convenes in January.

The job has been vacant since March 31 when Steve Dickson, who was nominated to the position by former President Donald Trump in 2019, stepped down about halfway through his five-year term.

Cantwell said she plans to meet next week with Washington, who was nominated in July but not yet had a hearing. "There wasn't enough time to meet with him and get him to the floor," Cantwell said.

The Democratic lawmaker said she believes the White House will stand by Washington and renominate him next year.

The FAA's top aviation safety official, Billy Nolen, has been running the agency on an interim basis.

Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, who earlier expressed "skepticism" about Washington due to his "lack of experience in aviation", told Reuters he thought the nomination should not be approved.

Wicker in September said he was "deeply troubled" to learn Washington was named in a search warrant that ties him to allegations of corruption at LA Metro." Washington, a former CEO of the Los Angeles public transport system, previously told Bloomberg News "all the allegations are false."

Asked Monday if there was time this year to hold a hearing on Washington's nomination or if the matter was a dead issue, Wicker responded: "It should be dead."

Meanwhile Cantwell said the nomination of Democrat Gigi Sohn to fill the key fifth seat on the Federal Communication Commission faced the same issue on timing when asked if the Senate would take up the nomination before the end of December. The FCC has been divided 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans since January 2021.

"It's all about the queue of are we doing legislation or are we doing nom(inations) and my sense is right now we're trying to get the omnibus done," Cantwell said.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Kenneth Maxwell

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