Despite CT lawmakers’ opposition, Congress approves Mattis waiver

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

C-SPAN(

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Washington – Despite opposition from every member of the Connecticut congressional delegation, a bill containing a waiver that would let retired Gen. James Mattis serve as defense secretary is on its way to President Obama, who says he will sign it.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted 268-151 for the waiver. Thirty-six Democrats voted in favor of it, but all five lawmakers from Connecticut voted against granting Mattis the waiver.

The Senate on Thursday voted 81-17 to pass the waiver, with Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy voting no.

Mattis needed a waiver because of a longstanding law that says defense secretaries must be retired for at least seven years to be able to serve. The law is intended to protect civilian control of the military.

Mattis retired in 2013.

Some Democrats, including Blumenthal, said their opposition to the waiver was based on the desire to preserve civilian control.

But much of the opposition from House Democrats was sparked by President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team’s refusal to allow Mattis to testify before the House Armed Services Committee after Mattis himself had told the leaders of the committee he would.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and others said voting for the waiver without Mattis’s testimony would set a precedent for the Trump administration to treat Congress as “irrelevant.”

“I want to make clear that our criticism is not aimed at General Mattis,” Courtney said. “I think he would be an incredibly effective secretary of defense.”

A full Senate vote on Mattis’s confirmation could come as early as next week.

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