National Security

Gillibrand’s Lone Vote Against Mattis Confirmation Explained

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand reaffirmed her opposition to confirming James Mattis as secretary of defense Thursday, voting against the recommendation of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, according to reports.

The committee voted 26-1 to recommend the Senate approve Mattis, who is considered to be one of President-elect Donald Trump’s more popular nominees with both Democrats and Republicans. Gillibrand’s vote reaffirms her long-running stance that a civilian should be in charge of the military.

A staffer with the senator’s office told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Gillibrand’s opposition is not because of Mattis’ background specifically.

“As Senator Gillibrand has stated repeatedly, her decision is not about General Mattis’ background, but rather her belief that a civilian should lead the military,” Marc Brumer, a spokesman for the senator, told TheDCNF.

Gillibrand outlined her stance against the Mattis nomination in a speech on the Senate floor last Thursday before Congress approved a waiver allowing Mattis to head the Pentagon. U.S. law states a former military officer must wait seven years before they are allowed to serve as secretary of defense, unless a waiver is passed.

“Now, overwhelmingly the senators [and] members of the armed services committee, me included, have expressed enormous gratitude for the extraordinary service of General Mattis, that is not in debate,” said Gillibrand. “But if there is no civilian, in all the world, as of today in this moment, who can meet the needs of the incoming administration, then who is to say that there will be no civilian in the future who can meet the needs of this administration, should they need another secretary of defense, or the next administration?”

As a member of the committee, Gillibrand has pushed for reform in laws governing sexual assault crimes, arguing that special outside prosecutors should handle the cases. Mattis pushed back against the reforms, and believes the authority should rest with commanding officers.

Brumer told TheDCNF in December that the disagreement is not the basis for Gillibrand’s opposition.

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