January 11, 2017
“This is how we keep tyranny from walking in the front door.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) voted in the House Armed Services Committee against granting a waiver for General James Mattis to be confirmed as Secretary of Defense after President-elect Trump blocked General Mattis from testifying in front of the committee. The waiver is needed to exempt Mattis from the 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.
Below are Rep. Peters’ remarks as delivered during the House Armed Services Committee hearing:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“Like you, I also believe strongly that our founders had it right when they established laws to maintain civilian control over the government and our armed forces.
“Like you, I was excited to hear about President-elect Trump’s choice to nominate General Mattis for Secretary of Defense.
“He is a man of exemplary experience who has the strength to guide our nation’s military at a time when we face new and dynamic threats at home and around the world.
“And it’s because of this reputation that I was likely to support a waiver for General Mattis, so that he could become our next Secretary of Defense.
“But, 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. And the action before us doesn’t even specify that it is General Mattis, who will get the waiver.
“I think we can all agree with much of what our colleagues have said.
“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, and to the Chairman.
“We deserve better. Chairman Thornberry deserves better. And I have to say, I think you have been an exemplary and fair Chairman. You’ve set a standard for patriotism and bipartisanship in Congress.
“It’s been an honor to serve with you and I think you deserve the respect from the incoming administration to have General Mattis come testify.
“It looks, on the other hand, like we’re going to abandon our responsibility to weigh and to limit the terms of a waiver and to give President-elect Trump assurance that he doesn’t have to worry about the House of Representatives.
“Our response to him saying he is not going to send someone down here—which seems petulant to me—is to say: ok, that’s fine. And I think that’s the wrong way to start off—whether you’re Republican or Democrat.
“If I were to continue on this committee, I would be very likely to support the waiver if he would come here. But, it is wrong as a committee to abdicate our responsibility in this matter.
“Pursuant to our constitutional duty, we should stand up without regard for party. We should demand that we be allowed to hear from General Mattis and we should provide our constitutional check on the executive branch.
“Maintaining these checks and balances is how we keep tyranny from walking in the front door.
“It’s our job. We have to do our job under the Constitution and we are making excuses for not doing our job today.
“The quality of the candidate is not an excuse.
“We should hold the administration accountable to bring General Mattis before us, allow him to appear pursuant to his wishes, and until he does so, I will not support the waiver and I urge my colleagues to join me.
“I thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for your service to the country.”