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 AustinTo unite America, Biden administration must brace for hate Pentagon, FEMA open mass vaccination sites in Texas and New York Senate confirms former Michigan governor Granholm as Energy secretary MORE to be President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden 'disappointed' in Senate parliamentarian ruling but 'respects' decision Taylor Swift celebrates House passage of Equality Act Donald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' MORE’s secretary of Defense, according to a scheduling notice from House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi: Dems want commission focused on Capitol mob attack Democrats call for relief package to waive taxes on unemployment benefits George Floyd police reform bill reintroduced in House 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 TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE’s first Defense secretary, James MattisJames Norman MattisThe soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs The GOP senators likely to vote for Trump's conviction Mission near impossible: Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon 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 Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided House on full display Nearly 5,000 National Guard troops to stay in DC over concerns of potential violence in March Langevin hopeful new Armed Services panel will shine new spotlight on cybersecurity 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.