“President-elect Trump has refused to make him available for this hearing so we can hear directly from him why we should provide that waiver,” said Peters. “That refusal to allow him to testify, despite his willingness to do so, is an insult to the House of Representatives, to this House Armed Services Committee.”
Peters said he had been prepared to vote for the waiver because Mattis is “a man of exemplary experience who has the strength to guide our nation’s military” but could now not do so.
The Trump transition team said Mattis needed the time to prepare for another hearing in the Senate.
The Republican chairman of the committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, said Mattis was “willing – even eager” to testify and blamed the reversal on “shortsightedness” by the Trump team.
“I think that is a mistake,” Thornberry said. “There are major principles of government involved with this exception, which has been requested for the first time in 67 years.”
Nevertheless, with Republicans in the majority, the waiver passed 34-28 in a vote along party lines and now goes to the full House membership.
The waiver is necessary because of a prohibition on individuals serving as Secretary of Defense within seven years of separating from military service, a law designed to maintain civilian control over the military. Mattis retired just three years ago.