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SASC HEARING ON NOMINATION OF LLOYD AUSTIN III (RET.) TO BE SECDEF, Jan 19, 2021, DC, 3:00 pm ET

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) will hold a hearing on January 19, 2021 at 3:00 pm ET in G-50 Dirksen Senate Office Building on President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Gen. Lloyd Austin III (Ret.) to be his Secretary of Defense (SecDef).

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be inaugurated the next day, January 20.  Although Biden cannot officially nominate anyone until then, it is not unusual for Congress to hold hearings on a President-elect’s choices for critical positions like SecDef prior to Inauguration Day and vote on Inauguration Day so they can take office immediately, assuring no break in leadership.

The hearing will be webcast on the committee’s website.  The Capitol Complex remains closed to the general public because of COVID-19.

The timing of the hearing is noteworthy in that SASC chairman Republican Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will imminently lose his gavel to Democrat Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) once the two Senators from Georgia elected on January 5, both Democrats, are sworn in.  At that point the Senate will have 50 Democrats (including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats) and 50 Republicans.  The tie-breaking vote is held by the Vice President in his or her role as President of the Senate. Until January 20 at noon, that is Republican Mike Pence. But then it will be Democrat Kamala Harris and the Senate will be under Democratic control and all committee and subcommittee chairs are Democrats instead of Republicans.

By law, DOD is led by a civilian, not a military officer, to conform with the U.S. practice of ensuring civilian control of the armed forces. (SASC will hold a hearing a week before this one, January 12 at 9:30 am ET, to discuss “Civilian Control of the Military.”)  Former military officers may not serve as SecDef unless they have been retired for at least seven years – a “cooling off” period. Gen. Austin has been retired for only three, so the House and Senate also must agree to a waiver to allow him to serve.

HASC, however, will not hold a hearing on the waiver until after the inauguration, so that will delay Austin’s confirmation past January 20.  On January 8, HASC chair Adam Smith said he plans to hold that hearing on January 21 and supports Austin’s confirmation.

 

Details

Date:
January 19
Time:
3:00 pm - 11:00 pm