Senate Approves Legislation Allowing Mattis to Serve as SecDef

Not only will his task be convincing senators to confirm him - installing Mattis will need Congress to pass a waiver of a law requiring anyone who served to be out of the military for at least seven years before serving as defense secretary. He also will likely to be asked how he views some of the top issues within the department now, including women joining combat units, whether he supports President-elect Trump's call to expand the size of the ground forces and the US cyberwar.

His remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee appeared set to clinch the panel's backing for his nomination, as Russia-wary politicians hope he might temper Mr Trump's stated desire to partner with Moscow. The 56-page document identified Mattis' view of potential conflict spots around the world, and said of Iran: "Iranian malign influence in the region is growing".

Trump's choice for Central Intelligence Agency director, Rep. Mike Pompeo, sounded similar notes during his own confirmation hearing Thursday and Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson echoed those sentiments during his hearing on Wednesday. McCain asked Mattis, "Do we have that?" Ten republicans have said they will support Mr Trump's pick and the Democrats are expected to oppose him, but Mr Rubio has hedged.

Regardless, Thornberry said the committee should focus on national security priorities of the United States and support the legislation allowing Mattis to serve. "I'm not sure that's bad, but it's possible".

If confirmed by the Senate, Mattis would become the nation's 26th Defense chief in the department's 69-year history.

The cancellation prompted House Democrats to threaten to vote as a bloc against the waiver.

Mattis, 66, led Marine divisions in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, after the September 11, 2001, attacks, and then the 2003 invasion to topple Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

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Jack Reed, another army veteran and a Democrat on the committee, warned in a separate hearing yesterday that confirming Mr Mattis would weaken the long-held principle that the military be under civilian control.

Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the committee, also pressed Mattis on whether it would be wise to follow Trump's repeated assertions, both during the campaign and afterwards, that the USA should collaborate with Russian Federation to fight ISIS in Syria.

For one, the legislation for Mattis does not now name him specifically, and instead provides the waiver only to "the first person appointed" as defense secretary.

"Most Democrats believe that Gen. Mattis may well be the best appointee to the Cabinet that Trump has made", Hoyer said.

The hearing is also meant to provide a forum for lawmakers to consider a measure that would amend existing law to allow Mattis to serve as defense secretary despite having spent fewer than seven years out of uniform.

"I want to say he has the nickname of "Mad Dog" - it's a misnomer".

"But for his short tenure out of uniform, I'd have unequivocal support for him", Rep. Adam Schiff (D) of NY said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast briefing last month.

  • Adam Floyd