36 House Democrats Join Republicans To Allow Trump Nominee To Skirt The Law
Usually, it’s only the U.S. Senate that has the privilege of choosing which Cabinet nominees will be confirmed. This year, however, the U.S. House of Representatives could also have played a role in the confirmation of one Cabinet nominee.
That’s because, this year, one of the people chosen by Donald Trump for a nomination to the Cabinet is simply unqualified for the job. I don’t mean to say that as a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of fact: James Mattis is unqualified to become the next Secretary of Defense.
For generations, the National Security Act has required that no recently retired military officer can serve as Secretary of Defense. The law requires that a person have been retired from the military for at least seven years before being eligible to become Secretary of Defense.
Congressman Ruben Gallego took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to explain the rationale behind this law to his colleagues: “For more than half a century, recently retired military leaders have been barred from assuming the top post at the Pentagon. The Members of Congress who enshrined this prohibition in law had fresh memories of the Second World War. They are wary of a decorated general slipping off his uniform and immediately stepping into a civilian role. They were apprehensive about installing a Secretary of Defense who could be perceived as partial to one service over others. They were also worried about whether the reputation of our military as a nonpartisan institution would suffer if its most respected leaders could transition directly into political positions.”
Donald Trump’s nominee to become the next Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, only recently left his position as a general in the Marine Corps. That makes him legally unqualified for the job. In spite of that, Republicans in Congress have drafted legislation to create a special loophole in the National Security Act, applying only to Mattis. The Senate approved this special exemption on Thursday. Yesterday, that same bill was considered by the U.S House of Representatives. Without approval of that bill, the Mattis nomination could not move forward.
Congressman Gallego challenged his colleagues to consider why they were willing to create an exemption to a law that was established to protect democratic principles. He said, “A simple set of rules and norms form the fabric of American democracy. Since the founding of the Republic, leaders of every party and political persuasion have upheld this basic framework. For generations, American leaders have placed principle before party.With remarkably few exceptions, Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama have valued our institutions and our democracy more than private gain or personal advancement. Now, Mr. Speaker, we have a President-elect who doesn’t think the rules should apply to him. We have a President-elect who is brazenly breaking norms left and right. We have a President-elect who promises to make America great again, but is dividing the country as never before. Here in the United States, we believe every American is entitled to equal justice under the law. But Donald Trump believes that a different set of rules should apply to him than apply to President Obama or President Bush or any of the other men who have held our highest office.”
If the Republican Congress is willing to set aside this particular safeguard of democracy, which other safeguards can we expect to fall by the wayside during the Trump years?
“If we, the Members of this great body, won’t stand up for the norms that have sustained this Republic for 238 years, then who will?” Gallego asked.
As of yesterday, this isn’t just a Republican problem. The following 36 Democrats in the House of Representatives refused to stand up for the norms that have sustained democracy in the United States of America. They voted in favor of the special exception to the law for James Mattis.
J. Luis Correa
Ann McLane Kuster
If these Democrats won’t stand up to Donald Trump on a simple matter of upholding the National Security Act, how can we expect them to stand up to Trump on anything?