WASHINGTON — Combat veteran and House Armed Services Committee member Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Dec. 8 voted against a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through April because it includes a provision that she says “threatens to erode the bedrock principle of a civilian-led military.”
Retired four-star Marine Gen. James Mattis has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump as secretary of defense, but needs Congress to pass a waiver to a law that requires defense secretaries to have been out of uniform for at least seven years. Marris retired three years ago. Republicans attached a rider to the government funding bill that provides that waiver.
The bill passed 326 to 96, and moves to the Senate.
“Despite some of our policy disagreements, I believe Gen. Mattis’ qualifications and experience merit thoughtful consideration, but this dangerous procedural gamesmanship only serves to undermine his legitimacy leading our Armed Forces,” said Duckworth, who served in the Iraq War and has just been elected to the Senate. “The American people deserve a transparent and thorough debate on the merits of eroding civilian leadership of the strongest military this world has ever known.
“Needlessly expediting this process abdicates Congress’ responsibility to fully and fairly consider the importance of the military’s subservience to civilians. It is an important aspect of our democracy that military leadership does not participate in politics. Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees must weigh in before Congress changes such a foundational principal of our democracy.
“I believe consideration of the next president’s nominees is the responsibility of the next Congress. However, if some believe a nominee must be considered by this Congress, which will have no role in confirming that nominee, they should at least be willing to stay here through Christmas to do the work.
“As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am willing to attend any hearings on this matter. Attaching this provision at the last second, behind closed doors in must-pass government funding legislation is not the appropriate way to do this. They should not be allowed to hide behind the same procedural gimmicks the president-elect won his election campaigning against.
“I have never voted against a continuing resolution for our nation’s budget, but we should not make such important constitutional decisions that fundamentally change the relationship between our military and civilian leadership so lightly or risk compromising American people’s faith in the next defense secretary’s ability to lead our troops in wartime.”