New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand (a potential 2020 presidential candidate) announced that she would oppose a waiver in order for retired General James Mattis’s nomination as Secretary of Defense to proceed.
At issue: the National Security Act of 1947, a longstanding federal law saying nominees for Secretary of Defense must have been retired from active duty for at least seven years. Mattis retired as a four-star general in 2013, meaning that he couldn’t be eligible for the position until 2020 as the law currently stands. Getting around this law would require a congressional vote granting him a waiver, so he can be considered and the Senate can give him an up-or-down vote.
Mattis and the Trump administration have run into a possible snag: Democrats could require a 60-vote supermajority to grant Mattis the waiver, meaning they could unilaterally block his nomination if their expected 48-member caucus holds together with at least 41 votes. Senate Democrats changed the rules in 2013 requiring only a simple majority to confirm executive branch nominees. Most Trump cabinet appointees could be confirmed on that rule change alone, but because the rule change did not apply to this potential vote on a waiver, the 60-vote threshold still stands. Gillibrand – who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee which would hold confirmation hearings for Mattis – will require a 60-vote threshold for the waiver, an aide told Politico.