The US Congress is swiftly moving ahead to approve retired Army General Lloyd Austin as President Biden’s secretary of defense. On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 326-78 to provide a legal waiver to Austin, allowing him to become the top American official overseeing the US armed forces. Shortly afterward, the Senate passed the wavier, 69-27.
Under US law, the position of Secretary of Defense is reserved for civilians or individuals retired from the army for at least seven years. But General Austin retired in 2016, which is less than the required seven years retirement period, triggering the need for a waiver from US Congress. On Friday, with Senate and House votes, the Congress is all set to confirm Austin as US Secretary of Defense.
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During the vote on wavier, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Democrat Adam Smith praised General Austin as a qualified person for the top office. Smith further added that the current situation demands that he be installed at the Pentagon quickly. Back in 2010, Austin had worked with Biden on the troop withdrawal in Iraq.
Both the Democratic and Republican congressional leaders have expressed concerns over the Trump administration’s handling of the Defense Department, putting urgency on Austin’s confirmation. On the other hand, Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said that the upper chamber of Congress is moving quickly to confirm several of Biden’s nominees.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 84-16 to confirm former CIA Deputy Director Avril Haines as the first woman to be Director of National Intelligence. Meanwhile, the key confirmations of the Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken are still pending. But Biden’s nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas as the secretary of US homeland security has drawn criticism from some Republicans.
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