On Friday, the Senate has confirmed the appointment of Lloyd Austin as the country’s defense secretary. He is the United States’ first African American defense secretary and President Joe Biden’s second cabinet pick to be confirmed by the Senate.
A retired, four-star Army general, Austin’s military career included being the first African American general to lead a division of the Army into combat. He is also the first to supervise operations as the commanding general of US troops in Iraq.
Austin’s confirmation wasn’t all smooth sailing. Controversies have surfaced over legislation that supposedly prevents recently retired officers of the military from serving this appointed position. The law mandates that only those who have been retired for more than seven years can serve. However, Democrats supported Austin’s nomination, remarking that Biden should have his national security team set in the wake of the mobbing of the Capitol last Jan. 6.
Austin Confirmation as Defense Secretary Clears Senate
With this, the House of Representatives passed a waiver on Thursday so that Austin could serve as defense secretary, with the Senate doing the same thing shortly after.
A number of legislators, however, expressed concern regarding the waiver since they have also done the same thing for former President Trump’s first defense secretary Jim Mattis. Nevertheless, they decided to support Austin.
The retired general managed to clear the Senate, with a final vote of 93-2. Only GOP Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against it.
Apart from Austin, on Wednesday, the Senate has also confirmed Avril Haines as intelligence chief. She made history as the first woman to become the Director of National Intelligence.
The Senate still has a lot of confirmations to make when it comes to Biden’s Cabinet nominations. With this, senators have stated that positions connected to security and intelligence are their priority. Additionally, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, they hope to make a vote regarding the confirmation of Janet Yellen, Biden’s nominee for treasury secretary, and Tony Blinken, the nominee for secretary of state, this week.