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Conn. Senators Split On Biden's Defense Secretary Pick

Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin, a recently retired Army general, speaks during his conformation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington.
Greg Nash/Pool via AP
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Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin, a recently retired Army general, speaks during his conformation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington.

U.S. Senators from Connecticut are split on whether to accept Lloyd J. Austin’s nomination as the nation’s first Black defense secretary.

Senator Richard Blumenthal said there is a seven-year buffer required before an ex-military leader can head the Pentagon. Austin retired as a general in 2016 and needs a waiver from Congress to get around that requirement.

Blumenthal addressed Austin at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week.

“In my view, you have expressed clearly and cogently your commitment to strengthening civilian control over the military, which you would implement if confirmed,” Blumenthal said.

Still, Blumenthal said he won’t vote for the waiver on principle.

“My opposition to the waiver is not personal. It’s a matter of principle, and I want to move on to the merits of the policy issues that will confront you, if confirmed,” he said.

Blumenthal also voted against a waiver for former President Trump’s Defense pick, Jim Mattis, in 2017.

Chris Murphy, Connecticut's other U.S. senator, said in a tweet Austin does not raise the same concerns of military control under Biden, as former secretary Mattis did under Trump. He supports a swift transition for Austin.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.