MATTIS CONFIRMATION BATTLE
The incoming Trump administration is preparing for a fight with congressional Democrats over its choice for secretary of defense. President-elect Donald Trump announced on Tuesday in North Carolina he will nominate retired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis for the defense secretary post.
Gen. Mattis, a decorated war hero and former commander of the U.S. Central Command, is highly regarded as one of America’s most experienced commanders and military thinkers.
Unlike other nominees for the post, Gen. Mattis must pass two congressional tests: the traditional Senate confirmation of senior appointees, and a second vote to waive legislative limits on former military officers running the Pentagon.
Current U.S. law states that “a person may not be appointed as secretary of defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.” The restriction can be circumvented through a law waiving the seven-year waiting period, as occurred in 1950 when President Truman appointed retired Gen. George Marshall as defense secretary.
Congressional Republicans already are trying to short-circuit anticipated Democratic opposition to Gen. Mattis’ nomination through waiver legislation attached to a $1.07 trillion stopgap funding bill to keep the government open in the current lame-duck session.
Democrats oppose the provision of the continuing resolution, but analysts say it is unlikely they are prepared to shut down the U.S. government over what is otherwise expected to be a relatively easy confirmation for the retired Marine Corps general.
Gen. Mattis had little to say Tuesday night in Fayetteville after he was introduced by Mr. Trump.
“Thank you, president-elect, for the confidence that you have shown in me,” he said. “Thank you for the opportunity. I’m grateful for the opportunity to return to our troops, their families, the civilians at the Department of Defense, because I know how committed they are and devoted they are to the defense of our country, the defense of our Constitution and with our allies strengthened, with our country strengthened.”
Mr. Trump said he is confident the general will win approval.
“What a great guy,” Mr. Trump said. “He’s going to be incredible. You’ll get that waiver, right? He’s going to get that. Oh, if he didn’t get that waiver, there would be a lot of angry people.”