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Senate, House approve waiver allowing Lloyd Austin to lead DoD

Retired Army General Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his conformation hearing to be the next Secretary of Defense in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Pool Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI
Retired Army General Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his conformation hearing to be the next Secretary of Defense in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Pool Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The House and Senate voted to approve a waiver for Lloyd Austin to lead the Department of Defense Thursday, paving the way for his historic confirmation.

Austin, who would be the first Black defense secretary, retired from the Army in 2016.

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That created an extra hurdle to his confirmation by Congress: federal law requires that the role be filled by someone who has been retired from active military duty for at least seven years.

His name was floated in December as President Joe Biden's pick to lead the Pentagon, and on Wednesday Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the new chairman of the Senate armed services committee, said he would support the waiver.

And on Thursday, the House overwhelmingly approved the waiver with a bipartisan 326-78 vote, with 121 Republicans supporting the measure and just 15 Democrats opposing it.

The Senate, which needed 60 votes to confirm the waiver, quickly followed suit, with Senators from both sides of the aisle voting to confirm 69-27.

The waiver is similar to one passed in 2017 to allow retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis to run the Defense Department under former President Donald Trump.

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The Senate will need to vote separately on whether to confirm Austin for the position.

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