By Andrew Trunsky –
The Senate voted to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense, making him President Joe Biden’s second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.
Austin was confirmed by a bipartisan 93-2 vote and will be the first black person to serve in the role. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Utah Sen. Mike Lee were the only senators to vote against his confirmation.
His nomination, however, required a waiver from both the House and Senate since he only retired in 2016, and the top defense post requires that anybody serving be retired for at least seven years to reaffirm the military’s civilian control. Austin’s waiver passed easily with bipartisan support, with 326 representatives and 69 senators voting for it.
Congress underwent a similar process four years ago with Gen. James Mattis, President Donald Trump’s first nominee to lead the Department of Defense. Following his waiver, he was overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate as well.
Earlier Thursday Austin’s nomination passed the Senate Armed Services Committee on a voice vote after gaining the support of Democratic Sen. Jack Reed and Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, the committee’s top members.
“The Senate must work together to protect the American people,” Reed said in a statement on Thursday. “There is an urgent and widely recognized need to move forward with getting a new national security team in place.”
Democrats have expressed the need for Biden’s security team to be confirmed as quickly as possible given the heightened security risks and public health and economic crises facing the U.S., but the nominations of several Biden Cabinet nominees have stalled in recent days.
Hawley said on Wednesday that he would object to the swift confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, over his refusal to say whether he would commit to $1.4 billion in congressionally-appropriated funds being put towards Trump’s border wall.
And while Avril Haines, Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence, was confirmed 84-10 Wednesday evening, the vote only went forth after Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton lifted a hold on her nomination after she clarified an earlier answer that she gave during her confirmation hearing.
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