Senate confirms Mattis for defense secretary

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James Mattis_331911

Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis listens to questions from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., about his views on women and gays serving in the military, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led Senate has voted to confirm James Mattis to be President Donald Trump’s defense secretary.

Senators cleared the retired Marine general’s nomination Friday.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who challenged the idea of a former military leader in a civilian job, voted “no.” Republicans pushed for fast approval to ensure the post wouldn’t be empty even for a brief amount of time after Trump’s swearing-in.

Mattis will replace Ash Carter, who has been former President Barack Obama’s defense secretary since February 2015.

Congress had to pave the way for Mattis to serve. Lawmakers last week passed legislation that Trump signed granting Mattis an exception from the law barring former service members who have been out of uniform for less than seven years from holding the job.

Mattis retired from the Marine Corps in 2013.

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