Hoyer: Dems 'wary' of giving waiver to Defense pick without testimony

Hoyer: Dems 'wary' of giving waiver to Defense pick without testimony
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House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested Wednesday that Democrats would oppose granting an eligibility waiver to President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE's pick to head the Pentagon unless he first testifies before a committee.

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis would need a congressional waiver to lead the Defense Department because he hasn't been out of uniform for at least seven years, as the law requires.

Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Navy chief resigns over aircraft carrier controversy | Trump replaces Pentagon IG | Hospital ship crew member tests positive for coronavirus President tightens grip on federal watchdogs Navy chief resigns amid uproar over handling of aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis MORE (D-Wash.), who head the House Armed Services Committee, had scheduled Mattis's testimony for Thursday ahead of the waiver vote, only to be denied by Trump's transition team.

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"It is my understanding that Mr. Thornberry is not happy about that, [and] I know Mr. Smith is not happy about it," Hoyer told reporters Wednesday in the Capitol.

"Without prejudging [the outcome of the waiver vote], I think you will find Democrats very wary of voting for that if Gen. Mattis has not testified prior to the vote," Hoyer added.

Hoyer was quick to hail Mattis's professional bona fides, calling him thoughtful, honest, "and unlike all the rest [he] probably doesn't have any big conflicts of interest."

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

But Hoyer also emphasized the importance of the Pentagon's seven-year retirement requirement, which is designed to cement the historic practice of civilian control over the U.S. military.

"The committee has a right and a responsibility to inquire of Gen. Mattis why he thinks there ought to be a waiver, and what the ramifications of a waiver are, and what importance he thinks that the seven-year waiting period has — to get his view on it," Hoyer said.

A wave of Democratic opposition, if it does emerge, would be largely symbolic because the majority Republicans can still push the waiver through, as is expected. Still, it would send a message that Democrats don't want to set a precedent that any future waivers would be automatic.

"This is not a decision that ought to be lightly made," Hoyer said.

The waiver vote is expected as early as Friday.

--This report was updated at 3:44 p.m.