U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Defense gets his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, while the same committee considers legislation necessary to make him even eligible for the job.
Retired General James Mattis will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is expected to give him approval.
Mattis would become the first career military member to lead the Pentagon in more than 50 years. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2013 after serving as the head of U.S. Central Command and with experience leading forces during the war in Afghanistan and two wars in Iraq.
A law bars military officers from becoming defense secretary until they have been retired for seven years, so Congress will have to pass a one-time exception for Mattis.
Written in 1947, the law was meant to create space between military service and civilian directorship of the department.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to discuss the exception immediately after the confirmation hearing. The House Armed Services Committee is also due to consider the measure Thursday, but without testimony from Mattis, who had been scheduled to attend the hearing before Trump transition officials canceled the appearance.
Mattis has expressed concerns about security threats posed by Iran, and has said he does not support enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo, is appearing Thursday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for his confirmation hearing.
Pompeo has criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for reining in the interrogation techniques, saying the methods were “within the law, within the Constitution, and conducted with the full knowledge” of appropriate lawmakers.
Pompeo, a graduate of Harvard Law School and the West Point military academy, drew criticism in 2013 after he suggested Muslim leaders who don’t publicly condemn terror attacks are “potentially complicit” in the attacks.
Trump has frequently criticized the U.S. intelligence community, and speculated that the agencies were responsible for leaking unsubstantiated allegations about his ties to Russia. The president-elect said in nominating Pompeo he would be a “brilliant and unrelenting leader for our intelligence community.”
HUD nominee Ben Carson
A third confirmation hearing Thursday involves one of Trump’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is up for the job of leading the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
After Trump took the lead in the race about a month after he declared he was running for president, Carson was the only challenger in the Republican field who managed to pull ahead of him in national polls, though that lasted only a few days. He supported Trump quickly after dropping out of the race.
Carson lacks public policy experience, but a collection of former HUD secretaries who served under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush wrote in a letter to the committee they believe he will listen to the agency’s civil servants to help its mission to create affordable homes and inclusive communities.
In the past, Carson has voiced opposition to government programs that encourage what he says is “dependency,” and has touted the virtues of individual effort in becoming successful.
Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report