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House panel scraps Thursday hearing with Biden Pentagon nominee

The House Armed Services Committee has canceled its planned public hearing this week with President-elect Joe BidenJoe Biden 64 percent of Iowans say 'time for someone else' to hold Grassley's Senate seat: poll Philadelphia shooting leaves 2 dead, injures toddler Ron Johnson booed at Juneteenth celebration in Wisconsin MORE’s Defense secretary nominee, a spokesperson confirmed.

While the House normally has no say in nominees, which are confirmed by the Senate, Biden’s pick, retired Gen. Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Pentagon pulling 'certain forces and capabilities,' including air defenses, from Middle East MORE, needs both chambers of Congress to approve a waiver allowing him to bypass a law barring recently retired generals from running the Pentagon.

The House Armed Services Committee was originally scheduled to hear from Austin at an open hearing to consider the waiver Thursday.

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But the open hearing was canceled because the committee has not been officially organized, a spokesperson for committee Democrats said.

“It has become clear that full committee membership will not be finalized before Thursday’s scheduled hearing to discuss civilian control of the military with the Secretary-designate Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Pentagon pulling 'certain forces and capabilities,' including air defenses, from Middle East MORE,” said the spokesperson, Monica Matoush. “As such, we cannot yet convene our committee organization meeting or formally conduct committee business like a hearing. Once members have been named and the committee has been organized, we will proceed.”

Instead, committee members will hold a closed-door roundtable with Austin later this week, a committee aide confirmed.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is still slated to hold Austin’s confirmation hearing at 3 p.m. Tuesday. But the waiver hurdle means Austin will not be confirmed on Biden’s first day in office, a break from tradition for Defense secretaries.

The closed-door House Armed Services meeting could help speed the House’s consideration of the waiver and therefore the Senate’s confirmation of Austin. But it could also rankle lawmakers who insisted Austin publicly testify ahead of granting the waiver.

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Most House Democrats voted against a similar waiver for President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE’s first Defense secretary, James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs MORE, after Trump refused to let Mattis testify in the House at all prior to voting on the waiver.

Under a 1947 law meant to ensure civilian control of the military, Defense secretaries must be retired from the military for at least seven years before they can take the job. Austin retired in mid-2016.

But Congress can approve a waiver to the law to allow someone within the cooling-off period to lead the Pentagon and has done so twice: first for George Marshall in 1950 and then for Mattis in 2017.

Some Democrats who voted against Mattis’s waiver have come out in support of Austin, who would be the nation’s first Black secretary of Defense if confirmed.

Among the Democrats who have flipped is House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Congress must stop the march toward war with China Pelosi floats Democrat-led investigation of Jan. 6 as commission alternative MORE (Wash.), who is now pushing his colleagues hard to support Austin’s waiver.

“In short, I have no doubt that civilian control of the military will be completely upheld by Secretary-designate Austin when he is our Secretary of Defense,” Smith tweeted Monday about a letter he sent his colleagues urging support for Austin. “Blocking @LloydAustin's confirmation will send a false, dangerous message that Congress believes a highly qualified African American is unable to do the job – that would be a grave mistake.”