Joe Biden, the winner of the U.S. presidential elections held in November, is continuing cabinet operations. Biden had declared that the cabinet will represent “America” with all its colors. Thus, “Blacks,” “Hispanics,” “Asians,” and “Native Americans” are pushing to be represented in the Biden administration. One other challenge for Biden is rising from his party’s left-wing. The left-wing is also waiting for a role in the Biden cabinet that will allow them to move forward with their plans.
The Senate is currently under Republican control. Hence, Biden prefers figures close to the Democratic mainstream instead of the left wing, which exasperate the moderate Republicans in the U.S. Senate. The left-wing is further pressing to prevent figures affiliated with the “military-industrial complex,” “fossil fuel companies,” and “finance companies” from joining the cabinet. Meanwhile, Biden’s cabinet preferences conflict with the left wing’s demands.
Besides lobbying activities aimed at furthering the interests of major companies, new-generation Democrats and the left-wing have waged war against the “Revolving-Door” model. The way this model works is that figures who leave their top-level civil service positions first transfer to private companies, and are later assigned to top-level positions. Likewise, lobbyists working to advance the interests of major companies coming to influential positions is at the center of criticisms.
One of the figures at the center of cabinet discussions is retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, Biden’s pick for defense secretary in his incoming cabinet. According to U.S. laws, top military officials need to wait seven years after retirement before they can be appointed as defense secretary. Austin has not fulfilled this. The U.S. Congress can waive the law in rare cases only. Congress had made an exception in 1950 for George Marshall, and in 2017 for James Mattis.
Gen. Austin retired in 2016 from the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which is in charge of the “Wide Middle East.” In order for Gen. Austin to be defense secretary, the House of Representatives and Senate must approve a waiver. In the votes held to exempt Donald Trump’s candidate Mattis from the law, 36 Democratic deputies from the House of Representatives, and 17 Democratic senators from the Senate had voted “no.”
The stance adopted by the Democrats, who said “no” to the waiver for Mattis, in the case of Gen. Austin is a matter of curiosity. Besides stating that they regard Austin’s military career in high esteem, many senators announced that they will vote “no” out of principle. Biden needs support from the Republicans in the Senate for Lloyd to gain exemption. In the event that the waiver is approved by Congress, the Senate’s approval is also required in order for Lloyd to become secretary. There was a serious discrepancy between Mattis’ waiver votes in the Senate and the votes for secretary approval. Mattis had received votes from 98 senators in the 100-member Senate.
One other debate is regarding Gen. Austin becoming board director for “Raytheon,” one of the biggest U.S. defense companies, following his retirement. Lloyd also serves on the board of healthcare company “TENET,” which is in cooperation with “NUCOR,” the U.S.’s largest steel firm, which does business with defense companies. This matter is being discussed within the context of the “revolving-door” debates. If Austin can overcome obstacles, he will be the first Black American to serve as defense secretary. Hence, left-wing Democrats are divided concerning Austin’s candidacy for defense secretary. Senator Bernie Sanders, who voted “no” regarding exemption for Mattis, seems inclined towards a “yes” vote for Mattis, which is an important detail.
Let us note that Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was dismissed by Trump after the elections, was previously a lobbyist working for Raytheon. Defense Secretary Mattis had served as director at General Dynamics, one of the world’s biggest defense companies.
There is no question that the approach and policy Austin will follow in NATO, Russia, China, and the Middle East, all closely concerning U.S. policy, is the subject of another article.