Biden FAA nominee confirmed after 19-month vacancy

President Biden’s pick to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was confirmed Tuesday after 19 months of the agency not having a Senate-confirmed head.

Michael Whitaker, a former deputy FAA administrator, was confirmed in a 98-0 Senate vote, ending the over-a-year span in which the agency had no Senate-confirmed chief. Whitaker enters the position as the agency faces issues like an air traffic controller shortage and aging technology.

Senate Commerce committee chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who represents a state with a long history intertwined with the aerospace industry, said the new FAA leader’s priorities will be to “build a strong safety culture, attract new talent and keep pace with technology transformation,” on the Senate floor Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

The newly-confirmed Whitaker, however, wasn’t the president’s first choice for the role. He had originally picked Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington, but he faced resistance from Republicans and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.).

The Associated Press contributed. 

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