WASHINGTON – The House voted Friday to give Gen. James Mattis a legal waiver for his recent military service, all but clearing the way for the retired Marine to be confirmed as defense secretary.
The special one-time exemption for Mattis, who has not been retired for seven years as required by law, had already passed overwhelmingly in the Senate but was opposed by House Democrats, who were angered when President-elect Donald Trump's transition team canceled the general's scheduled testimony.
However, opponents were unable to stop the waiver, which cleared the chamber by a 268-151 vote.
The White House said Friday that President Barack Obama would sign the waiver into law, according to media reports.
With waiver in hand, the 66-year-old Mattis could be confirmed by the Senate when Trump is sworn into office Jan. 20, a move that will likely cause cheers from the military community with which the general remains deeply popular.
Indeed, Mattis, who retired in 2013, has been a rare point of bipartisan agreement and optimism as Trump prepares to take office following his surprising election victory and tumultuous transition.
"I know of no one more respected and more admired in the field of national security today than Gen. Mattis," said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
During four decades in the Marine Corps, Mattis led special operators in Afghanistan after 9/11, commanded the First Marine Division in Iraq in 2003, and until 2013 led U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East.