Just hours after President Trump was sworn into office, amid Chuck Schumer's jabs over HUD, the Senate has confirmed retired Marine General James Mattis as defense secretary and retired Marine General John Kelly as homeland security secretary. They were both expected to be confirmed easily, and were, but Democrats promised fights over several other nominees.
Mattis was the first to be confirmed by a vote of 98 to 1... (as The Hill reports)
Mattis, a retired Marine general who most recently served as commander of U.S. Central Command, is highly respected by both Republicans and Democrats for his military service.
He retired from the military in 2013, meaning he needed a waiver to bypass a law that says Defense secretaries must be out of uniform for at least seven years.
Congress easily passed the waiver last week, and Trump signed the waiver legislation as his first act as president.
Some Democrats had expressed concern about granting Mattis the waiver, citing the need to maintain civilian control of the military. But the concerns were not enough to prevent Mattis from becoming Pentagon chief.
Followed shortly afterwards by Kelly...
- *SENATE HAS VOTES TO CONFIRM KELLY FOR DHS, VOTE ONGOING
As Munr Kazmir wrote recently, not only is Kelly a 45-year Marine whose impeccable credentials made him a four-star general, he’s also a man who understands the real threat. Much like President-elect Trump, General Kelly sees the Southern border as our Achilles heel and the easiest way for those wishing to do us harm to get into this country and perpetrate an attack. With Kelly at the helm, the border will be made secure and that threat will be destroyed.
General Kelly has also shown the kind of guts the position of running the DHS demands. He strongly opposed President Obama’s statements about closing the detention camps at Guantanamo Bay, realizing that having so many suspected terrorists hellbent on destroying the United States roaming free would pose a grave problem. He ruled Gitmo with an iron fist and ensured that it served its intended purpose.
And make no mistake, General Kelly will also stand up to President-elect Trump if he feels has to.
Back in January, the General told the Military Times, “The one thing I was always told is you absolutely have to tell truth to power ... the decision makers have got to have ground truth,” adding that, “Otherwise, the decisions they make could be flawed — and that can be dangerous.”
Both Mr. Mattis and Mr. Kelly are retired Marine Corps generals. Federal law requires a seven-year waiting period between active duty and serving as the secretary of defense; Congress passed legislation last week granting a waiver to Mr. Mattis and Mr. Trump signed it on Friday.
As Reuters reports, most of Trump's nominees will eventually be confirmed.
Under a rules change orchestrated by Democrats when they held a Senate majority, his selections need just 50 votes to pass the Senate, not the 60 that used to be required for a nomination to advance in the chamber.
Seven members of President Barack Obama's Cabinet were confirmed the day he took office, a number Republicans hoped to match for Trump. Schumer said the Obama nominees had completed their paperwork and ethics reviews while all of Trump's choices had not.
Underscoring the bitterness over the confirmation process, Schumer also said Democrats wanted roll call votes on Mattis and Kelly, rather than allowing their confirmation by voice vote.
While Republicans sought to confirm a third national security nominee on Friday, Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, the president’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, Democrats planned to delay his approval, noting that he had not even been approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee as of Friday. As Bloomberg reports, three Democratic senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — objected to what they characterized as an overly speedy push to confirm Mr. Pompeo.
“The importance of the position of CIA Director, especially in these dangerous times, demands that the nomination be thoroughly vetted, questioned and debated,” the senators said in a statement.
The skirmish over nominees set a grim tone for the first day of Senate under the new president.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, chastised Democrats for delaying nominees, pointing out that the Senate had cleared seven such cabinet officials on President Obama’s first day in office in 2009.
Democrats responded that Mr. McConnell had refused to even allow a hearing to be held for Mr. Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick M. Garland, during his last year in office.
“For those who have forgotten the record of the Republicans in the Senate when it comes to delaying nominations, Exhibit A will continue to be the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, on the senate floor, adding, “That vacancy continued for political reasons regardless of the fact that it created at least a hardship and some confusion on the highest court of the land. It went on for 10, 11 months and it continues to this day.”
*SENATE WILL VOTE MONDAY ON POMPEO NOMINATION