Must-pass bill includes waiver to fast-track Mattis confirmation

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Rep. Hal Rogers introduced a short-term spending bill Tuesday designed to keep the government funded at current levels through April 28, but the must-pass measure could hit a roadblock due to a rider Democrats won’t be happy about.

The legislation includes language that would fast-track President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of defense, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis. It would provide a waiver allowing his to serve, as he is currently ineligible since he has served in the military within the past seven years. 

“‘IN GENERAL — Notwithstanding the second sentence of section 113(a) of title 10, United States Code, the first person appointed, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, as Secretary of Defense after the date of the enactment of this Act may be a person who is, on the date of appointment, within seven years after relief, but not within three years after relief, from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of the Armed Forces,” the bill reads.

Sen. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand threatened to filibuster the measure if it was included in the bill, a move Senate Committee on Armed Services Chairman John McCain called “disgraceful” ahead of the legislation’s release.

“While I deeply respect General Mattis’s service, I will oppose a waiver,” she said in a statement last week. “Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy, and I will not vote for an exception to this rule.”

The waiver requires 60 votes to make it through the upper chamber.

Congress must pass the bill by its Dec. 9 deadline if it wants to dodge a government shutdown.

“This Continuing Resolution is the necessary step for an operating and functioning government over the next four months. However, this type of short-term spending absolutely should not be the final answer to funding the federal government for the year,” Rogers said in a statement. “This legislation is just a band aid, but a critical one. It will give the next Congress the time to complete the annual Appropriations process, and in the meantime, take care of immediate national funding needs.”

The 115th Congress will be responsible for constructing two budgets next year, one for Fiscal Year 2017, which started in October, and one for Fiscal Year 2018.

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