House follows Senate's lead, OK's Mattis exemption

13News Now Mike Gooding has the story

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WVEC) -- Former Marine Corps General James Mattis has cleared another hurdle to becoming Secretary of Defense.

On Friday the House of Representatives followed the Senate's lead, and approved an exemption for him to serve. The exemption is needed, because Mattis only has been out of uniform for three-and-a-half years.

The House of Representatives voted 268 to 151 to OK the waiver and let Mattis serve. The normal wait time for a retired officer to serve the position is seven years.

Second District Rep. Scott Taylor -- a former Navy SEAL -- was an enthusiastic yes vote.

"I think he'll be an excellent Secretary of Defense," he said. "And again at a time we're still in combat and we know very well in the Second District, any time something happens in the world, our people are going. So I have the utmost confidence he won't take that decision lightly to put them in harm's way, and also know he'll be fighting in their behalf before and during, when they leave as veterans. So I'm excited about the pick."

Because Mattis retired in 2013, he needed  Congress to pass legislation to waive the usual a seven-year cooling-off period for uniformed leaders before he can take the Pentagon's top civilian job.

"The usual standard was 10 years," said Christopher Newport University political science professor Quentin Kidd. "Congress lowered that standard in the 1950's. And then lowered the standard in 2008, actually. Seven years is somewhat arbitrary. But it's important as a statement to say civilian control of the military is important."

As for the Hampton Roads delegation, Republicans Taylor and Rob Wittman voted yes, while Democrats Bobby Scott and Donald McEachin voted no.

In a statement explaining his no vote, Rep. Scott said the Trump transition team canceled Mattis' testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, and he was also concerned the waiver was too broad.

"If General Mattis failed to be confirmed by the Senate and President-elect Trump nominated another recently retired active duty military officer who would have otherwise required a waiver, this broad waiver would cover that subsequent nominee with no review by the House or Senate as to whether a waiver should be granted," Scott said in a statement. "Congress should not abdicate its constitutional authority in such a manner, especially in circumstances that may jeopardize civilian control of our military."

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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