Joe Biden rolls out Pentagon nominee Lloyd Austin amid concern over waiver

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President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday repeated his calls for Congress to swiftly confirm retired four-star Gen. Lloyd Austin as his Pentagon chief, appealing to his own party as much as Republicans amid concern that the pick has not been out of the military long enough.

At a press conference in Wilmington, Del., Biden praised Austin, a former commander of American forces in Iraq before his 2016 retirement, touting him as “a leader of extraordinary courage, character, experience and accomplishment.”

“Someone with whom I have worked closely for many years and I’ve seen perform to the highest standards under intense pressure,” Biden said.

The 67-year-old nominee would be the first African American to hold the role if confirmed and Biden lauded Austin’s experience at returning tens of thousands of US troops home from Iraq while he was vice president.

But the recently-retired general would need to obtain a waiver from Congress to override a law which says a defense secretary must wait seven years from active service to take the top civilian post.

Several Democratic senators on Wednesday said they would be unwilling to support overturning a rule intended to preserve civilian control over the military after they voted against a similar waiver for President Trump’s first Pentagon chief, retired Gen. Jim Mattis.

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