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Is Trump transition team blocking Mattis from testifying before the House Armed Services Committee?

U.S. Defense Secretary nominee, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, is seen during a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell Dec. 7, 2016 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Mattis, who had retired from the military in 2013, will need a waiver from Congress because current federal law bars military personnel who have retired less than seven years from taking the position. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis is testifying Thursday morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee in a confirmation hearing for his nomination to serve as President-elect Donald Trump's Secretary of Defense.

Originally, he was set to head across the Hill Thursday afternoon to provide testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, with some indicating the idea was to gain support from House Democrats for the waiver he needs from both sides of Congress to be allowed to serve in the civilian leadership role. Now word comes that the Trump transition team may be keeping Mattis from appearing before the House committee.

Mattis requires a special waiver because he's been out of uniform for only four years, and the position requires a seven-year wait between retirement and service as defense secretary. House Democrats are now reportedly threatening to vote against the special waiver because of the decision that he not appear before the House committee, Politico reported:

"I'm going to urge all House Democrats to vote no on the waiver,” said Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. “The Republicans just spent eight years complaining about the executive branch ... usurping legislative branch power, and here's the first move of the new administration is to ignore us on something.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that Democrats would be “very wary” of voting for the waiver without Mattis’ testimony.

However, as HotAir.com noted, Republicans likely have all the votes they need in the House to ensure the waiver passes and Mattis' appearance before the House committee would be simply a "courtesy."

Trump transition officials told Politico that it was Mattis who chose not to attend the afternoon hearing, but House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, says he was under the impression Mattis was "enthusiastic" to appear and that he received word of the change from the Trump team Tuesday night.

“The transition team told me last night that they would not allow him to come and testify, even though we have been communicating with them since December, and even though Mattis himself is enthusiastic to come testify,” Thornberry said in an interview.

Thornberry said the transition team told him they were concerned about adding extra public settings for questions that could complicate the confirmation process, as well as the fact that Mattis would be testifying on civilian control specifically in the House, and not the Senate, despite his Thursday hearing in the Senate.

There have been some reports that Mattis has been butting heads with the Trump transition team over staffing at the Pentagon.

At the Senate hearing Thursday morning, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, opened the questioning by noting that, immediately following the Senate hearing, the committee would meet to consider special legislation to provide the waiver to clear the way for Mattis to serve as the Pentagon chief.

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