Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis is now eligible to be the next Secretary of Defense, after committees in both the House of Representatives and Senate voted to approve a special waiver to bypass a requirement that would have rendered him unable to accept the nomination.
Though the law requires prospective Defense secretaries to have been civilians for the last seven years, Mattis has only been out of uniform since he retired in 2013, notes The Hill. Mattis will join one other defense secretary, George Marshall, as the second nominee for whom the law was waived.
"I believe we should approve the exception today that allows Gen. Mattis to serve as secretary of Defense so that there is no gap in that important office and so that the nation can benefit, once again, from the service of this extraordinary leader, thinker and public servant," said Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas on Jan. 12, according to The Hill.
The waiver passed through the House Armed Services Committee as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full Senate, while the full House is expected to vote on it Jan. 13.
Many Democrats were hesitant to voice their approval, after President-elect Donald Trump's team canceled Mattis' Jan. 12 hearing one day before.
"I'm very disappointed with where we're at," said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the committee. "The incoming president's team has decided that the House Armed Services Committee is irrelevant. What I think we should do is say that's unacceptable."
Mattis did provide written responses to several policy questions in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, during which he said that Iran was the "biggest destabilizing force in the Middle East" and called for the U.S. to be prepared for world threats, notes The New York Times.
Meanwhile, the former general's team stressed that he was not intentionally avoiding testifying and that he looks forward to cooperating with Congress in the future.
"Gen. Mattis' current focus is on following the constitutional process for confirmation by the United States Senate and testifying at his confirmation hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee," Mattis' spokeswoman Alleigh Marré said in a statement, according to The Hill. "If confirmed, he looks forward to working with both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, which play critical roles in supporting our forces and ensuring civilian control of the military."