Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren will be a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee – which is responsible for oversight of the military and the Pentagon – beginning in January. Why is this significant? According to the Boston Globe:
The posting which Warren sought and will take effect when a new Congress convenes next year, adds a new set of issues to Warren’s portfolio and promises to fuel speculation about a possible 2020 bid for president. The liberal firebrand — who is best known for dressing down Wall Street CEOs and pushing for ways to bolster the economic health of the middle class — will now be getting elbows deep in debates about defense spending, Russian cyberattacks, and deployment of the nation’s military around the world.
The decision also puts Warren (and by extension the state of Massachusetts) back on the committee that has oversight and importance for defense contractors in her state. Her previous two predecessors – Ted Kennedy and Scott Brown – were members of the committee. Warren will join the committee in time to participate in the confirmation hearings for General James Mattis (Ret.) to be the next Secretary of Defense. To get this position, Warren gave up her position on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. As the Globe also mentioned, it will give her opportunity to brush up on foreign policy and national security issues ahead of a possible 2020 presidential run.
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.