Democrats Push Back on House GOP Idea to Ease Mattis Confirmation in Short-term Spending Bill

WASHINGTON -- In a last-minute maneuver before Congress likely heads home at the end of the week, House Republicans are considering attaching a measure to a stopgap spending bill to ease the nomination process for retired Gen. James Mattis to be secretary of defense.Before Mattis can be confirmed, Congress will need to pass an exemption to a law that prohibits military members who have been on active duty in the past seven years from leading the Pentagon. Mattis retired from the Marine Corps in 2013.But some Republicans on Capitol Hill are now talking about trying to include a measure in a short-term spending bill that Congress needs to pass this week to continue funding the government that would expedite the waiver process for Mattis.House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a written statement Tuesday that the House GOP proposal, first reported in the Washington Post, is a “troubling” attempt to evade a full debate on the waiver.“The American people are entitled to regular order and thoughtful scrutiny of nominees and any potential waivers,” Pelosi said. “Brushing aside the law that enshrines civilian control of the military - without discussion, in a massive must-pass funding bill - would set a terrible precedent.”Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, a member of the House Armed Services committee where the waiver for Mattis will need to originate, also pushed back on the idea, warning about the message such a tactic would send to the public about the confirmation process.“If any changes are going to be made it needs to be carefully debated and all the history needs to be studied very closely so that members can make the right vote on that type of thing,” Veasey said.But beyond just Democratic opposition, the idea has split Republicans too.Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate’s number two Republican from Texas, said he hopes that Congress will include language to expedite the waiver process in the short-term spending bill."I certainly support it," Cornyn told Politico on Monday. "Gen. Mattis has now been out of the military for three years, so he is a civilian. And the seven-year number strikes me as fairly arbitrary. So I've been frankly encouraged by the broad support he seems to have."But Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Amarillo, who chairs the Armed Services committee, opposes the idea of an expedited process, despite his support for ultimately passing the waiver in January.“It is a significant issue. It needs appropriate attention, so ... I am not in favor of trying to tack it onto a CR and ram it through,” Thornberry told Politico. “It needs to have due deliberation.”To Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, the waiver requirement is a “routine exemption” to allow the president-elect to nominate his team that will then go through the Senate confirmation process.But Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, said he would like to see a full debate on the waiver in January so that Republican members of Congress are not “seen as jamming something through.”Lawmakers who support Mattis point out that Congress granted a similar exception to former secretary of state and Army Gen. George Marshall during Harry Truman's presidency.But Pelosi noted Tuesday that Marshall’s waiver was granted in a stand-alone bill, and she argued that Mattis should go through the same process.Veasey said he was not sure why some members of Republican leadership were trying to attach the measure to this week’s spending bill.“There may just be a sense now with there being a change with Republicans controlling all three branches that they can just recklessly push through whatever they’d like," Veasey said. "But there’s a reason why we have these types of laws in place."Staff writer Katie Leslie contributed to this report.  Continue reading...

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