The House on Friday voted to waive a law that would disqualify retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who left active duty in 2013, from serving as Defense secretary in the Trump administration.
The 268-151 vote approves a one-time exception to the rule requiring the leader of the Pentagon be at least seven years removed from service. The waiver easily passed the Senate on Thursday, but was closer in the House due to objections from Democrats, who want Mattis to testify before the House Armed Services Committee.
Before the vote, the panel’s ranking Democrat, Adam Smith of Washington, said on the House floor that Mattis agreed to testify before the committee, but President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team wouldn’t let him. He argued that waiving the law without requiring Mattis to testify cedes power reserved for the legislative branch to Trump.
“If we don’t stand up for ourselves now, we’re going to be rolled over countlessly,” he said. “We all want to support General Mattis.”
Some House Republicans also expressed disappointment that Mattis would not testify.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who was one of the first GOP lawmakers to endorse Trump’s presidential bid, said on the House floor before the vote he felt “slighted.” Hunter, who still voted for the waiver, told lawmakers to get used to being “slighted” by the Trump administration.
“It’s times like this where we need to rise about the slights of the future Trump administration,” Hunter said. “I think there’s gonna be a few more. I think this future administration does not hold this body in the highest regard.”
On Thursday, the Senate passed the waiver in an 81-17 vote shortly after that chamber’s Armed Services Committee approved it 24-3. The House Armed Services Committee cleared it on Thursday by a 34-28 margin.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) intends to have the Senate vote on Mattis’ confirmation, along with Trump’s other national security picks, on Inauguration Day.