Lipinski: Trump Team Should Have Allowed Mattis to Testify At House Committee

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) released the following statement today after voting “present” on the bill to grant a waiver to General James Mattis so that he would be allowed to serve now as Secretary of Defense, instead of needing to wait seven years after retirement as is required under current law: 

“This was a difficult vote because of the great respect I have for General Mattis, not only because of his service as a Marine General, but also because he has great potential as a Defense Secretary during these perilous times.  Before he testified yesterday in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he already had shown his ability to change President-elect Trump’s thinking on issues such as torture.  During the Senate hearing, I was impressed by General Mattis' comments regarding the great threat that Russia poses and the need to protect Poland and the Baltic nations, stand up to Iran, work with NATO and other alliances, and strengthen our defenses.  

“However, the issue we were faced with in the House was whether to grant a waiver to General Mattis so he could serve as Secretary of Defense.  In order to hear General Mattis’ views on the importance of civilian control of the military and to assuage any concerns about waiving the seven year waiting period for him, he was scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday.  Mattis agreed to testify, only to be undercut by the Trump transition team which told him not to testify.  This development is very troubling.  In recent history, Congress has failed to exercise its authority on too many occasions, thereby granting more power to the Executive Branch.  It is a bad sign that President-elect Trump’s transition team decided to cancel General Mattis’ testimony and that the House still went ahead with the vote on the waiver.  This is not a good way for Congress to begin with the new Administration. 

“I believe General James Mattis has the potential to be a very good Secretary of Defense, but my ‘present’ vote on the waiver is intended to send a signal that Congress must stand up for its own authority, or else we will continue to cede more power to the Executive Branch.”