House, Senate approve waiver for ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin for secretary of defense

January 22, 2021:The House and Senate approved a waiver that would allow retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of defense before a seven-year cooldown period for former service members.

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, including selecting senior White House staff and appointees to top government positions.

In 2020, there were 1,472 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,118 positions required Senate confirmation and 354 did not. The new administration is also responsible for filling thousands of other positions across the federal government, including in operations and policy. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden administration.

  • The House and Senate approved a waiver that would allow retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of defense before a seven-year cooldown period for former active service members. The House approved by a vote of 326-78 and the Senate by a vote of 69-27.
  • Confirmation hearings are scheduled next week for the following Cabinet and Cabinet-rank nominees:
    • Gina Raimondo, nominee for secretary of commerce, will appear before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Tuesday.
    • Jennifer Granholm, nominee for secretary of energy, will appear before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Wednesday.
    • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday 
    • Denis McDonough, nominee for secretary of veterans affairs, will appear before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
    • Marcia Fudge, nominee for secretary of housing and urban development, will appear before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.


  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed articles of impeachment against Biden on Thursday. She released a press release that said the charges were “for his corrupt actions involving his quid pro quo in Ukraine and his abuse of power by allowing his son, Hunter Biden, to siphon off cash from America’s greatest enemies Russia and China.” Biden has not issued a response. The Hill reported, “An investigation by Senate Republicans last year into corruption allegations against the Bidens found no evidence of wrongdoing by the current president.”

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders said about the confirmation process for Alejandro Mayorkas for secretary of homeland security.

  • “Our nation is facing unprecedented crises and threats to American national security, from the devastating Coronavirus pandemic to massive cyber breaches across government and the private sector—and as we have seen too clearly in recent weeks— rising domestic terrorism and anti-government violence. The Department of Homeland Security is the lead agency charged with combatting these threats and more, and it needs qualified, Senate-confirmed leadership in place immediately.” – Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.)
  • “Mr. Mayorkas has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures. Just today, he declined to say he would enforce the laws Congress has already passed to secure the border wall system. Given this, I cannot consent to skip the standard vetting process and fast-track this nomination when so many questions remain unanswered.” – Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)

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