House lawmakers look to reassure Australia after Mattis resignation

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is reaching out to Australia to reassure the U.S. ally following the announced resignation of Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThreatening foreign states with sanctions can backfire Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court MORE.

In a letter spearheaded by Reps. Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyHouse passes bill tackling workplace violence in health care, social services sectors This week: Round 2 of House impeachment inquiry hearings State dinner highlights the enduring importance of US-Australia alliance MORE (D-Conn.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Colorado rep planning sunrise run to possible sites for military memorial Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (R-Wis.) and sent by Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey, members of the Congressional Friends of Australia Caucus stressed the importance of the alliance between the countries after Mattis said he would leave the Trump administration.

“We therefore share many Australians' concerns about Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis's recent announcement that he will step down from his position in February 2019,” they wrote in Friday's letter obtained by The Hill. “Secretary Mattis has been a stalwart proponent of American leadership and a free and open Indo-Pacific, both which have benefitted the United States and Australia for decades. He has also been an advocate for maintaining and strengthening America's alliances and partnerships around the world, including with Australia.”

Mattis's departure date has since been moved up to Jan. 1.

The congressional group cited Mattis’s resignation letter, which stated the United States, while an “indispensable nation in the free world,” can’t protect its interests without alliances with countries with common goals and values.

“[W]e are writing to strongly reaffirm our agreement with Secretary Mattis that it is in the United States’ ­enduring interest to maintain and strengthen our alliances, built of shared values and shared interests, particularly in the case of our specia­l relationship with Australia,” the lawmakers wrote. “Moving forward, we want to extend our deep and sincere commitment to maintain America's special bond and alliance with your country.”

In addition to Courtney and Gallagher, the letter was signed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pentagon watchdog says Syria withdrawal hurt ISIS fight | Vindman testifies on third day of public hearings | Lawmakers to wrap up defense bill talks this week Lawmakers expect to finish defense policy bill negotiations this week Impeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill MORE (R-Texas) and ranking member Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithWhite House, Congress near deal to give 12 weeks paid parental leave to all federal workers Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Defense: Suspect in Pensacola shooting identified as Saudi aviation student | Trump speaks with Saudi king after shooting | Esper denies considering 14K deployment to Mideast MORE (D-Wash.), as well as Reps. 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Mattis announced his resignation on Thursday after the White House announced it planned to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria — a move Mattis strongly opposed.