WASHINGTON. On Wednesday, Transportation Minister Pete Buttigieg was fired upon after the latest turmoil with the airline suspended flights across the country for 90 minutes.
Senator Ted Cruz questioned the secretary’s ability to lead the department, holding the position for almost two years.
“The flying public deserves safety in the sky. The FAA’s failure to keep a critical security system operational is completely unacceptable and is just the latest example of dysfunction in the Department of Transportation,” said the Texas Republican, one of 13 senators who opposed Buttigieg’s confirmation.
Cruz demanded a full account of the mass shutdown from Congress and called for reforms before lawmakers resanction the FAA this year. The latest five-year reauthorization, passed in 2018, was a rare bipartisan move early in the Trump administration.
“This incident also highlights why the public needs a competent, proven leader with significant aviation experience to lead the FAA,” Cruz said.
Rep. Troy Nels, R-Richmond, taunted the secretary.
Pete Buttigieg is on vacation again? he asked. This refers to revelations a month ago, widely discussed in conservative circles, that Buttigieg spent a week in Portugal just before Labor Day at a critical juncture in negotiations between railroads and workers. President Joe Biden and Congress eventually intervened to prevent a railroad strike that could deprive the US economy of billions of dollars a day.
All flights in America are suspended due to an FAA computer error.
Is Pete Buttigieg on vacation again?
— Congressman Troy Nehls (@RepTroyNehls) January 11, 2023
“When there’s an issue with the FAA that needs to be addressed, we’re going to own it, just like we’re asking airlines to own their companies and their operations. But safety will always be our top priority,” Buttigieg said on CNN. “The system is constantly being upgraded and improved, but I think this is one of the key issues that we should consider based on what we saw overnight.”
The Federal Aviation Administration, an agency within the Department of Transportation, has not had a Senate-approved leader since March last year. when Stephen Dickson, former Delta Air Lines chief executive appointed by President Donald Trump, stepped down in the middle of his five-year term.
Billy Nolen, the agency’s chief security officer, has since led the FAA as acting administrator.
In July, Biden nominated Philip Washington for the post.
The Senate Commerce Committee has not yet held a confirmation hearing. After the nomination expired, Biden sent Washington’s name back to the Senate last week.
Washington, who led the Biden transition group after the election to the Department of Transportation, was CEO of Denver International Airport during the year he was first nominated. Previously, he was CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Denver Regional Transportation District.
The nomination was reportedly stalled by a corruption investigation related to contracts awarded during his time in Los Angeles, although Cruz and others also questioned his limited aviation experience.
Both Cruz and Buttigieg have presidential ambitions.
Buttigieg rose to prominence during the 2020 campaign, outperforming most rivals, despite criticism — particularly from Senator Amy Klobuchar — for his inexperience at the state or federal level. “We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where that got us,” she said during one of the debates. “I think having some experience is good.”
Before he set his sights on the White House, Buttigieg’s highest office was mayor of South Bend, Indiana, home to the University of Notre Dame, a city with fewer residents than Arlington, Texas.
He won the mayoral seat with less than 11,000 votes and lost his only statewide race by 25 points.
But he electrified many Democrats in the primaries, and Biden found a seat for him in the cabinet.
The Senate confirmed Buttigieg by an 86-to-13 vote two weeks after Biden took office. Another Republican Senator from Texas, John Cornyn, supported the confirmation.
At the confirmation hearing, Cruz and Buttigieg had a falling out over climate change. The senator challenged the nominee over Biden’s decision to revoke approval to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
A Cruz aide later attributed his refusal to vote to Biden’s rejection of “radical energy policies” and Buttigieg’s “lack of experience on most transportation issues.”