President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to nominate retired Army General Lloyd Austin as defense secretary is running into early friendly fire from Democrats, with two senators saying they don’t plan to vote for the waiver he’d need to serve in the post.
Although Biden hasn’t announced that Austin is his choice, the plan was confirmed Monday evening by three people familiar with his intention. Austin would be the first African American to lead the Pentagon, bolstering diversity in Biden’s Cabinet.
But, Austin, who retired in 2016, would need Congress to waive a law requiring military officers to be retired for seven years before serving as defense secretary.
Congress voted an exemption for Jim Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, to serve as President Donald Trump’s first defense secretary. It’s a move that lawmakers of both parties said at the time should be extremely rare to preserve the tradition of civilian control of the military.
On Tuesday, two of the 17 Senate Democrats who voted against a waiver for Mattis -- who, ultimately, was easily confirmed -- said they’d also oppose one for Austin.
“I have deep respect and admiration for General Austin, but I remain opposed to granting a waiver to anyone with significant, recent military experience serving in this post because it contravenes the constitutional principle that demands civilian control of our military,” Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. (end of excerpt)
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