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Senate panel approves Mattis for Defense secretary

Senate panel approves Mattis for Defense secretary
© Greg Nash

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday approved the selection of retired Gen. James Mattis to be Defense secretary, setting him up to be confirmed by the full Senate as soon as President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report MORE is inaugurated and officially nominates him.

The committee voted 26-1 to recommend Mattis to the full chamber, meaning the nomination will be sent straight to the Senate without referral to the committee, according a committee statement. The lone “no” vote came from Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOur new praetorian guard? Gillibrand: Military must make changes beyond sexual assault cases COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave MORE (D-N.Y.).

Gillibrand had previously vowed to oppose Mattis over concerns that he hasn’t been retired from the military for as long as the law requires Defense secretaries to be.

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Mattis retired in 2013. The law requires Defense secretaries be out of uniform for at least seven years. But Congress passed a waiver last week that allows Mattis to bypass that law.

When the committee voted on the waiver last week, Gillibrand was joined in her opposition to the waiver by Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden risks break with progressives on infrastructure The Memo: The center strikes back Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (Mass.).

According to the committee release, there's precedent for the committee voting on a nominee before the inauguration — the nomination of Donald Rumsfeld to be President George W. Bush's secretary of Defense was sent to the Senate on Jan. 19, 2001.