WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) — Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are calling foul after President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team cancelled an appearance by retired Marine Gen. James Mattis before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Mattis will testify in the Senate Thursday, which has approval powers over his nomination to be Trump’s secretary of defense, but both houses of Congress need to vote to waive a required seven-year waiting period before a retired military officer can serve in the position.
House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry said he was told by transition officials on Tuesday night they did not want Mattis to do the additional hearing — which would be conducted immediately after he finishes with the Senate — because they did not want to expose him to the additional risk of extra questioning.
House Democrats expected to be able to question Mattis on the role of civilian leadership of the military, giving them an opportunity to be persuaded to support voting for the waiver. After the Trump officials blocked him from testifying, some members of Congress suggested they could have a hard time voting for the waiver.
“The committee has a right and a responsibility to inquire of General Mattis why he thinks there ought to be a waiver, what the ramifications of a waiver are, and what importance he thinks the seven-year waiting period has,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, House Whip and second highest ranking Democrat in the House. He added that “having said that, I want to make it clear I think most Democrats think General Mattis may well be the best appointee to the Cabinet that Trump has made.”
The seven-year space between retiring from the military before eligible for the job has been in place for about 70 years and has been waived just once.
Although House Democrats could slow the waiver vote, realistically they cannot stop it from being approved by Congress because Republicans have enough votes to get it done.