The Senate is poised Friday to confirm James Mattis as Secretary of Defense and John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security. Republicans had the necessary votes all along to confirm Mattis and Kelly, although there was some question earlier in the week as to how long Democrats would choose to drag out their confirmation. Chuck Schumer signaled earlier Friday he was on board with confirming Mattis and Kelly quickly and painlessly this afternoon, saying “”I looked at their records … and I think they’d be very good.” The Senate Democrats website reports that a roll call vote for Mattis started at 4:55pm eastern time, with a vote for Kelly scheduled to take place immediately after.
Democrats threatened to block Mattis’ waiver early in the process, but it was ultimately passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Donald Trump this afternoon. The waiver was required because of laws designed to ensure the Secretary of Defense is a civilian position, and Mattis was still a few months short of meeting those requirements. Both Mattis and Kelly had relatively smooth confirmation hearings, with Mattis creating some buzz with his answers on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Kelly distancing himself from Trump on some policy positions, such as the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Both men have been praised by Democrats in recent weeks.
It still appears unlikely that the Senate will match the 7 nominees they confirmed on inauguration day in 2009, as other Trump nominees face a more drawn out path to confirmation. Schumer and Democrats will likely seek to create as much coverage and debate possible regarding perceived controversies involving Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, and Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin. However brief it may be, it is refreshing to see that two men with distinguished records of public service won’t be caught in the middle of a senseless political fight.
“There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot them. I don’t think you do. It’s just business.”~James Mattis