Issue: H.R. 335, To provide for an exception to a limitation against appointment of persons as Secretary of Defense within seven years of relief from active duty as a regular commissioned officer of the Armed Forces. Question: On Passage of the Bill (H.R. 335), (3/5 vote required).
Result: Passed in Senate 69 to 27, 4 not voting. Agreed to earlier that day by the House (Roll Call 18). Signed the next day by the President (1-22-21). Became Public Law 117-1. GOP only scored.
Freedom First Society: Normally, the House does not weigh in on confirmations of presidential nominees. But in this case, President Biden’s nominee of Lloyd Austin to become Secretary of Defense required a one-time change in the statute designed to preserve civilian control of the military that required a minimum seven-year separation. Austin had only five.
The statute preventing recently retired military from serving as Secretary of Defense was enacted shortly after World War II to preserve civilian control and has only been waived twice – once for General George Marshall and then for General Mattis under President Trump.
But the importance of civilian control of the military should not have been the compelling reason to deny the waiver for Lloyd Austin. Even though there were many fine alternatives that didn’t require a waiver. The objection should have been to CFR control of the military and our government.
Indeed, the primary reason to deny the waiver should have been Austin’s membership in the globalist Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), along with several other top Biden nominees, as well as Austin’s commitment to the globalist agenda and his eagerness to make a home in the military for transgender individuals. Significantly, the sponsor of H.R. 335, the waiver, was Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA-9), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, but also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
We don’t score the Senate Democrats on this one, as all of the 14 Democrat Nays voted to confirm Austin the next day.
We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)
Bill Summary (Congressional Research Service):
Shown Here: Public Law No: 117-1 (01/22/2021)
This bill allows the first person nominated and appointed as Secretary of Defense after 12 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) on January 20, 2021, to be a person who is, on the date of appointment, at least four years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of the Armed Forces. Under current law, an individual may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from such active duty.
Analysis (FFS): The Senate cut short its time for debate, rushing to approval, so that Lloyd Austin could be confirmed the following day. Only one Republican (Senator Susan Collins – Maine) and one Democrat (Senator Chris Van Hollen – Maryland) spoke regarding H.R. 335. Accordingly, we urge readers to view our more extensive analysis of the earlier House vote (Roll Call 18).
Not all of the senators opposing H.R. 335 did so because of opposition to Austin himself, as the next-day’s confirmation vote made clear. Indeed, only two Senators opposed the confirmation — Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri).
Here are excerpts from the remarks of the two senators who spoke to H.R. 335:
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): Until Congress granted a waiver of this requirement in 2017 for General Mattis, Congress had approved a waiver only once before, in 1950 for General George Marshall. With the nomination of Gen. Lloyd Austin, what I had thought would be a once-in-a-generation waiver in 2017 now appears to be the start of an unwelcome trend. To be clear, I do not believe that General Austin himself poses a specific risk to the civilian control of our military. By all accounts, he is a dedicated public servant and patriot with more than 40 years of successful military service. However, I do not believe that President Biden has offered a strong enough justification for granting another legislative waiver in so short a time. Should a waiver for his service be approved over my objections, which appears likely to occur, I intend to support General Austin’s nomination based on his merits and qualifications.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland): On the merits, I support the nomination of Lloyd Austin, and I believe that Mr. Austin is highly qualified for this role. However, the importance of civilian leadership at the Department of Defense is greater than any individual nominee. The subordination of military authority to civil authority is a bedrock principle of our democracy. In 2017, when I voted against a waiver to allow James Mattis to serve as Secretary of Defense, I stressed that our Founders’ emphasis on civilian leadership distinguished the young United States from the other nations of the time. I also noted that in enacting the exception for General Marshall in 1950, Congress expressly stated that: “the authority granted by this Act is not to be construed as approval by the Congress of continuing appointments of military men to the office of Secretary of Defense in the future. It is hereby expressed as the sense of the Congress that after General Marshall leaves the office of secretary of defense, no additional appointments of military men to that office shall be approved.”