Langevin Statement on Waiver for Gen. James Mattis

Jan 13, 2017 Issues: Armed Services, Vote

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement in response to approval of a legal exception allowing General James Mattis to move forward in the confirmation process as Secretary of Defense:

“General Mattis has served our country with distinction, and I am grateful for his 41 years of service. It is my understanding that General Mattis wanted to testify before the House Armed Services Committee and had every intention of doing so. It is an affront to the procedures of this Congress and the members of the committee that the President-elect’s transition team did not allow him to testify prior to this vote. Preservation of civilian control of the military is a fundamental tenet of our democracy and I could not, in good conscience, vote in favor of a waiver without being afforded the opportunity to question General Mattis about the value of civilian expertise, his service, or his vision for the Department of Defense.

“Had General Mattis appeared before the committee, I would have asked him about his strategic use of civilian expertise within the State Department during conflict negotiations. I would have asked him about ways in which he plans to combat the civilian-military divide as a recently-retired general officer. I would have asked how he views any politicization of the Department as a general officer serving a political institution. These are questions to which the committee and the American people deserve answers.

“I believe an open hearing prior to casting our votes would have assuaged concerns about potentially widening the civilian-military divide by providing a waiver in this instance. My ‘no’ vote is not a reflection of General Mattis or his qualifications. General Mattis has a deep institutional knowledge of our armed forces and military strategy and a reputation for strategic thinking. But without going through the proper vetting process that honors the enormity of the precedent we are setting with this decision, I was unable to support a waiver for General Mattis. This has been an utter failure of the incoming administration, and I fear that this rebuke of legislative norms will weaken its relationship with our committee going forward.”