Friday, the House voted to approve a waiver allowing retired General James Mattis to serve as President-elect Trump’s Defense Secretary.
The House voted 268-151 to approve the waiver, one day after the Senate had swiftly passed the waiver, 81-17.
The waiver clears a final passage to allow Mattis to serve as Defense Secretary, even though the law states that Defense secretaries must be out of uniform for at least seven years in order to preserve civilian control of the military. Mattis had only been retired since 2013.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama would sign the bill, if it’s sent to him before he leaves office on January 20.
Reportedly, neither party opposed the waiver before this week. That is, until Trump’s transition team blocked Mattis from testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, despite Mattis having told the committee officials he would testify.
Allegedly the unexpected cancellation angered House Democrats, who later put up a fuss over voting for the waiver because it sets a precedent for the administration to undermine Congress, reported the Hill.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) said, “Here we are, before this president is even in office, at the very first opportunity, he is choosing to completely ignore us for no reason.”
Congressional Democrats also voiced objections that the waiver doesn’t mention Mattis by name, and could conceivably be applied to someone else. In addition, they argued the waiver should provide clarification of the applicability of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to the retired general.
It has been reported that Mattis’ canceled hearing also struck a cord with Republicans.
Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said, “There are legitimate complaints about the president-elect’s transition team refusing to allow Gen. Mattis to come to a hearing and testify before the House.”
He added, “I share all of those concerns. I think it was a mistake and shortsighted.” He then admitted, “We have a responsibility to the men and women who serve and I think we have a responsibility for the safety and security of every American to see that there is a fully functional secretary of Defense on day one of the new administration.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who was one of three that voted against the waiver offered praise for Mattis: “Let me say very bluntly, if there were ever a case for a waiver of that principle, it is you and this moment in our history.”
H/T: The Hill
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