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House panel, Senate approve waiver for Mattis' Defense nomination

The special waiver for Mattis now needs approval from the full House of Representatives.

By Doug G. Ware
House panel, Senate approve waiver for Mattis' Defense nomination
Retired Gen. James Mattis, nominated to be secretary of defense, takes his seat before his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. The Senate and House Armed Services Committee each approved a waiver for Mattis to become the next Pentagon chief. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Unlike the rest of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet appointees, James Mattis must face two hurdles to get his job -- and it appears he's on his way to clearing both.

The full Senate and House Armed Services Committee each voted to approve a waiver for Mattis to serve as secretary of state -- a post that, by law, requires any occupier to be at least seven years removed from active military duty.

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Mattis, having retired in 2013, is four years short of that qualification -- meaning he must be granted a waiver by Congress to take the position.

The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 81-17 -- but it was far closer in the House committee, 34-28. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved it 24-3, after Mattis sailed through his confirmation hearing Thursday.

RELATED Congress unsure about giving exemption to Mattis as Trump's defense secretary

Democrats in the committee voted against granting the waiver after Trump's transition team rejected the panel's request for a hearing with Mattis.

The waiver must now be approved by the full House, which could happen by the weekend.

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Congress created the mandate with the National Security Act of 1947 -- believing civilian leadership in the Pentagon ensures the fewest question marks for military policy, which has the potential to be unpopular with active duty members of the armed forces.

Only one waiver has ever been granted by Congress, for active U.S. Army Gen. George C. Marshall in 1950.

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