WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/AP) — The Senate Armed Services Committee has overwhelmingly passed legislation allowing retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to run the Pentagon.
The Republican-led panel voted 24-3 to clear the bill after Mattis testified before the committee. Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Blumenthal and Elizabeth Warren opposed it.
As Trump’s pick for defense secretary, Mattis sat Thursday before lawmakers who wrestled with an amendment change that would allow him to be eligible for the post.
Mattis, who had retired from the military in 2013, needed a waiver from Congress because current federal law bars military personnel who have retired less than seven years from taking the position. The 1947 law aimed to preserve civilian control over the military.
Two former senators told lawmakers why Mattis should be the next Defense Secretary.
“He has a nickname of mad dog, it should be brave heart,” said Sen. William Cohen (D-Maine).
As for his plans, he told lawmakers he has no intention of reversing rules that allow LGBT personnel to serve openly in the military.
Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee he’s only concerned about making the U.S. armed forces as lethal as possible.
“I’m not concerned about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with,” said Mattis.
He also says he doesn’t expect to reverse a 2015 decision by the Obama administration to open all front-line combat jobs to women.
Reiterating, Mattis said Thursday he’ll be focused on getting the U.S. military into “its most lethal stance.”
History shows the law was waived once before for George Marshall in 1950, a former five-star Army general and secretary of state.
“If the Senate consents and if the full Congress passes an exception to the seven-year requirement, I will provide strong civilian leadership of military plans and decisions,” said Mattis.
The full Senate and House must approve the bill before sending it to the president.
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