World Bulletin / News Desk
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted overwhelmingly to grant President-elect Donald Trump's pick to helm the Defense Department a needed waiver to let him assume the post.
The 24-3 vote came at the conclusion of retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis' three-hour confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. All three dissenting votes came from panel Democrats.
The House will have to follow suit to allow Mattis to become defense secretary.
The post is not supposed to be assumed by anyone who has been out of uniform for less than seven years.
"I recognize my potential civilian role differs in essence from my former role in uniform," Mattis told lawmakers. "Civilian control of the military is a fundamental tenant of the American military tradition."
Mattis left active duty in 2013 amid reports of a falling out with President Barack Obama's administration over his hawkish views on Iran during his tenure helming U.S. Central Command.
Renowned Gen. George C. Marshall is the only defense chief to have received the exemption when Congress granted it to him in 1950.
Throughout his over four-decade career in the Marines, Mattis has carved out a reputation for being a superior strategic thinker who has proven his prowess on the battlefield, and is largely revered by his service branch.
During his confirmation hearing Mattis broke with his prospective commander-in-chief, telling lawmakers that he believes Russia is attempting to destroy the NATO alliance.
"Right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with Mr. Putin and we recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance," he said, "and that we take the integrated steps -- diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps -- the working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must."
Mattis served as NATO's supreme allied commander for transformation from 2007 until 2009.
His comments are at odds with Trump who has often derided the alliance as "obsolete", and "unfair economically" to the U.S. while speaking favorably of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And yesterday, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson whom Trump has tapped to lead the State Department and who has had close business ties with Russia urged the U.S. to more fully cooperate with Moscow on shared interests.
Those opportunities are dwindling, Mattis said.
"I'm all for engagement but we also have to recognize reality and what Russia is up to and there's decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and increasing number of areas where we're going to have to confront Russia," he said.
Mattis' hearing stood in stark contrast to those of fellow Trump nominees, including Tillerson, who have faced strong criticism as they testify before lawmakers. The four-star general was largely met with praise for his military career during questioning.
"Two years ago, General Mattis, last time you came before this committee, the idea that we would be meeting again under the present circumstances would have been hard to imagine, most of all by you. But I for one, could not be happier," said Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain.Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Ocak 2017, 01:26