Transportation Security Administration director nominee Erroll Southers withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday after Republican efforts to block his appointment raised eyebrows around the country.
The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that Southers, the associate director for special programs at USC’s National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, had decided not to pursue the TSA directorship.
“It is clear that my nomination has become a lightning rod for those who have chosen to push a political agenda at the risk of the safety and security of the American people,” Southers said in a statement, according to the New York Times. “This partisan climate is unacceptable, and I refuse to allow myself to remain part of their dialogue.”
Members of the GOP feared Southers would attempt to unionize the TSA and had suspended the vote on his appointment in early January.
“Americans deserve a leader at TSA with integrity and with an unwavering commitment to putting security ahead of politics,” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said in a statement.
Several Republican senators also expressed concern that Southers had run background checks on his then-estranged wife’s ex-boyfriend over 20 years ago as a former FBI agent.
Southers admitted to the incident, and had been censured by the FBI at the time of the occurrence.
The White House accepted his withdrawal, but spokesperson Nick Shapiro expressed how “uniquely qualified” Southers was for the position.
“[Obama] believes that Erroll Southers would have been an excellent TSA administrator but understands his personal decision and the choice he has made,” Shapiro said Wednesday, according to CNN.