House to vote Thursday on waiver for Biden's Defense chief pick

House to vote Thursday on waiver for Biden's Defense chief pick
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The House is slated to vote Thursday on a waiver that would allow retired Gen. Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military | Military guns go missing | New White House strategy to battle domestic extremism Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military: 'We are not weak' Overnight Defense: Biden participates in NATO summit | White House backs 2002 AUMF repeal | Top general says no plans for airstrikes to help Afghan forces after withdrawal MORE to be President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE’s secretary of Defense, according to a scheduling notice from House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse fails to pass bill to promote credit fairness for LGTBQ-owned businesses 110 House Democrats endorse boost to staff pay Black Democrats press leaders for reparations vote this month MORE’s (D-Md.) office on Tuesday.

Austin needs the waiver because of a law that requires Defense secretaries to be out of uniform for at least seven years in order to preserve the principle of civilian control of the military. Austin retired from the military in mid-2016.

The announcement of Thursday’s vote comes after the House Armed Services Committee announced earlier Tuesday it was canceling its planned public hearing with Austin, with a committee spokesperson citing House rules barring a hearing before the committee is officially organized.


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

Austin is testifying publicly before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday afternoon for his confirmation hearing.

The timing means Austin will not be confirmed on Inauguration Day, a break from the tradition of top national security officials being confirmed on Day One of a new presidency.

Most House Democrats voted against a similar waiver for President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC 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 the waiver vote.

But some Democrats who voted against Mattis’s waiver have come out in support of Austin, who would be the nation’s first Black Pentagon chief 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.”

Meanwhile, some Republicans who supported Mattis have said they will oppose Austin’s waiver.

Last week, the Republican Study Committee, which counts most GOP lawmakers as members, announced it opposes Austin’s waiver. Its position is not binding on its members, and Republican opposition alone would not sink Austin’s waiver in the House.

But with Democrats holding a slim majority in the lower chamber, Republicans opposing Austin en masse would leave little room for error in uniting Democrats around the pick.